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Snow storms wallop community

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | January 8, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A series of winter storms that walloped the community, beginning Thursday and continuing through Friday, made a mess of roads, knocked out power in some areas and caused city and county crews to plow around the clock in an attempt to keep up.

Depending on location, the area received anywhere from a couple of inches to 18 inches, according to the National Weather Service and the Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network website.

In Bonner County, Dover recorded 16 inches of snow, with 1.77 inches of total precipitation between the snow and rain; and Sandpoint received 10.5 inches of snow with 1.6 inches of total precipitation. Other locations ranged from 2.6 inches of snow in Priest River, 12.5 inches of snow in Hope and 13 inches of snow in Elmira. In Boundary County, Bonners Ferry had 13 inches of snow and Moyie Springs had 18 inches over the 24-hour period.

"Road and Bridge crews have been working very long hours trying to keep up with the storms," Bonner County County and Bridge Director Jason Topp wrote in a post on the department's Facebook page. "That being said, we have experienced a few weather patterns that lead to the perfect storm (pun intended) for ice covered roads."

With the recent cold snap, Topp said crews weren't able to lay down much sand as the equipment froze solid within a few hours. Crews had to return to the shops and thaw the sanders out before heading back out. Frozen sand also caused some of the sanders to break.

"Mother Nature can be pretty powerful," Topp said in the post. "This cold snap has frozen the surface of our roads."

That means that as the snow turns to rain, roads will begin to build ice. With the roads surfaces frozen, the rain will freeze as fast as it hits the road.

"We will sand it and it will build ice over the sand," Topp said. "The snow floors will begin [to] break up, causing the roads to be covered in slush."

Topp also cautioned residents to avoid trees near power lines as the rain will overload the snow there as well, causing some to fall. If residents see any downed trees, the road director advised them to call Bonner Dispatch at 208-265-5525.

Several outages in Bonner and Boundary counties were reported by both Northern Lights, Inc. and Avista Utilities, with about 400-500 people affected between the two utilities.

The power companies will clear the lines, allowing crews go in and open the roads.

In the meantime, Topp encouraged people to be careful and avoid unnecessary travel.

"Road and Bridge will be very busy for the next couple of days so please bare with us," he said. "If you do not need to travel on these roads please stay home. We will have them cleared as soon as possible."

Like county crews, Sandpoint city crews were kept busy as a result of the storms. With the large amount of new snow, rain and warmer temperatures melting the snowpack, Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said street crews had to cease using snow gates — creating berms in residents' driveways.

Stapleton said city officials recognize the challenges and frustrations that creates, especially with the wet heavy snow.

"The city’s highest priority is ensuring that the streets are passable for emergency services," she said. "With the build-up of slush that will freeze overnight when temperatures decrease, plowing the snow floor in driving lanes is critical."

To help crews plow roads as safely and as quickly as possible, Stapleton asked residents to park on the even address of a street only — unless posted otherwise. Vehicles should be moved at least once every 24 hours and recreational vehicles, basketball hoops, boats and trailers should be moved off the streets altogether.

Sidewalks, ADA ramps, mailboxes and fire hydrants should be kept clear of snow, and trash containers should be kept off the streets.

Residents should not shovel or blow snow onto streets and, if possible, assist neighbors and seniors with clearing their driveways.

In the meantime, Stapleton said city crews will continue plowing streets 24 hours a day. She anticipated that all city-maintained pathways and trails will be plowed within the next two days.

Sandpoint's full snow removal plan and priority street routes is available online at sandpointidaho.gov. In addition, snow removal updates are provided on the city’s website and through the Engage Sandpoint mobile app.

Community resource officers are actively out identifying vehicle obstructions and priority sidewalks that have not been shoveled. Vehicles that have not been moved within 24 hours will be ticketed and ongoing violations will result in towing and impound, Stapleton said. Tickets may also be issued for vehicles not parked on the even address side of the street. 

Citizens with questions or concerns about snow removal are invited to contact the city’s snow hotline at 208-920-SNOW.

While the snow was causing problems down below, the 11-plus inches that fell on Schweitzer led to a deep snow day, resort officials posted to their website.

"Make no mistake, this is storm skiing," they said in the post. "The grooming crew must feel like Sisyphus as they have groomed 40 runs in the middle of this storm. … [Friday] is all about fresh, untracked snow; and we have a considerable amount of it. Hope you didn't skip leg day. It is going to be a fun one!"

photo

(Photo courtesy TONYA SHERMAN)

Tonya Sherman shared this photo of the snow piled up from the series of storms which blanketed the area with anywhere from a couple of inches of snow to more than a foot, depending on where the location.

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