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Originally published Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 1:35 PM

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Record snow fall paralyzing Spokane

The winter storm that has paralyzed Spokane set a record for the amount of snow dumped in a 24- hour period, the National Weather Service said Thursday.

Associated Press Writer

SPOKANE, Wash. —

The winter storm that has paralyzed Spokane set a record for the amount of snow dumped in a 24- hour period, the National Weather Service said Thursday.

The weather service recorded 17 inches of snow at Spokane International Airport in the 24 hours that ended at 4 a.m., 4 inches more than the record of 13 inches set in 1984. Records have been kept since 1881.

More than 3 inches of additional snow had fallen on the city since 4 a.m., the weather service said, driving the total to more than 20 inches.

The city has declared a "Condition Red" snow emergency, meaning crews will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week until they complete a full city plow. The city also was hiring private contractors to help clear 967 miles of streets.

"We've deployed all of our snow removal equipment and are calling in more from the private sector to efficiently and effectively open our streets," Mayor Mary Verner said. "This is our priority.

"The city of Spokane is the heart of this region, and we will get the community moving."

Heavy snow was falling across much of Washington and especially in the northeastern part of the state, a region that last year endured one of the snowiest winters in its history. Counties around Spokane had received 7 to 10 inches of snow by Thursday morning. But the city of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, 30 miles east of Spokane, had received nearly 30 inches.

The town of Dayton, near the Blue Mountains in southeastern Washington, received a record 11 inches of snow in the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. That obliterated the old record of 3.5 inches set in 1978, the weather service said.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation was struggling to keep highways open. All state highways in Eastern Washington's Spokane, Whitman, Lincoln, Adams, Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille counties have compact snow and ice, or loose snow on the roadway surface, the agency said.

"Every piece of equipment is out on the road and our maintenance team is working hard to get the deep snow off the highways," said Keith Metcalf, the department's Eastern Region administrator. "We are asking drivers to avoid unnecessary travel."

The agency warned that increasing winds would create blowing and drifting snow in many areas, especially in Adams, Lincoln, Spokane, and Whitman counties. That might lead to more highway closures.

Spokane police on Thursday urged people to stay home because most roads were impassable.

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Spokane schools were closed, as were most government offices. The Spokane Transit Authority grounded most of its buses, and garbage pickup was suspended.

Spokane International Airport remained open, but snowfall was so heavy that planes were not departing because runways could not be plowed fast enough and loading and deicing planes was hampered, spokesman Todd Woodard said.

Gonzaga University canceled classes. But the 8th-ranked Gonzaga basketball team will be in action Thursday evening. Their opponent, Texas Southern, managed to get into town Wednesday.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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