Heavy snow wreaks havoc on West


Delvey Wright puts his chains away to wait for a tow truck after sliding off Interstate 15 on Monday, Jan. 28, 2008, in Lehi, Utah. The Utah Highway Patrol says a winter storm has caused hundreds of wrecks all over the state, resulting in one death and multiple road closures.

Douglas C. Pizac/The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 10:19 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 10:19 a.m.

BOISE, Idaho - Heavy snow pummeled Western states from Washington to Arizona, leaving thousands without power, causing widespread havoc on roads and even overwhelming one ski resort.

The roofs of several businesses collapsed under the weight of snow Monday in northern Idaho, while avalanches forced the evacuations of dozens of homes. There were no injuries.

The Navajo Nation declared an emergency on its sprawling reservation.

About 20 inches of snow fell around Coeur d'Alene. "They got clobbered," John Livingston, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said of residents of that northern city.

The storm system arrived from hard-hit California and combined with another emerging from the Gulf of Alaska, stalling over eastern Washington and northern Idaho, said Livingston.

Forecasters predicted a new storm could roll in on Tuesday, bringing 1 to 3 more inches of snow in low-lying areas of Idaho and 2 to 4 inches in the mountains. The weather service posted heavy snow warnings for parts of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The snow closed Coeur d'Alene schools on Monday, the first time since November 1996 that a winter storm closed the city's schools, officials said.

About 2,800 Idaho customers lost power during the storm but officials said service to most was restored by late Monday.

Colorado's San Juan Mountains were socked with 30 inches of snow and wind gusts as high as 100 mph. In Durango, Colo., about 340 miles southwest of Denver, even the sledding hills were at risk of avalanches after 18 inches of snow fell.

"Anybody who's going out sledding should be letting their parents know where they are, and parents be aware of the slide potential, particularly on north-facing slopes," La Plata County sheriff's Lt. Dan Bender said.

A record 13.7 inches of snow fell at Spokane, Wash. Officials closed City Hall, urged residents to stay home Monday to give snowplows a chance to catch up, and told nonessential city and county workers to stay home.

In eastern Oregon's Wallowa Mountains, authorities found two snowmobilers missing over the weekend in the 4 feet of snow that fell there.

Avalanches in Idaho damaged four houses and a garage northwest of Ketchum and police evacuated 71 homes in the area as a precaution for much of Monday, said police spokeswoman Kim Rogers.

The storm caused hundreds of wrecks all over Utah and Idaho, and multiple road closures, including Interstate 84 at the Idaho-Utah line.

Skiers were stuck at Utah's Snowbird resort because Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed to traffic for avalanche control, spokeswoman Laura Schaffer.

The threat of flooding as heavy snow melted brought an emergency declaration on the Navajo reservation sprawling across parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

"Protecting life, limb and property is always our first priority," said Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. "Real dangers exists in our remote areas miles from paved roads."

At lower elevations of Arizona, heavy rain flooded some creeks and rivers. Some residents of the town of Carrizo fled for a time because of fear that two dams might fail. The evacuations were canceled after water levels lowered and an inspection found no apparent damage to the dams.

California finally saw clearing weather Monday after a week of downpours and heavy snowfall, but the reprieve might not last long. There was a 20 percent chance of rain Wednesday, and two more storms, weaker than the storms that hit during the past weekend, were forecast to reach the region on Friday.

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