Record snow fall paralyzing Spokane

Record snow fall paralyzing Spokane
Vic Edwards of Bryam Healthcare at Sprague and Ivory streets in Spokane, Wash., uses a snow blower to try to keep the parking lot clear on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/The Spokesman-Review, Dan Pelle)
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - 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.

"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.

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

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.

State Route 272 from Colfax to the Idaho state line was closed.

Spokane officials were hiring private contractors to help clear 967 miles of streets.

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.

Police said there have been so many collisions they are not responding to accidents unless there are injuries.