Slushy streets

Rain has left some areas looking more like lakes, streams

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Brandon Smith trudges along a slushy Montana Avenue in Coeur d'Alene.

COEUR d'ALENE - Wet boots, sloppy streets, flood warnings, an avalanche warning, and more rain and snow on the way.

Warmer temperatures mixed with heavy rain took its toll across North Idaho on Thursday, not to mention Coeur d'Alene, prompting the National Weather Service to issue flood warnings around the area.

Expect standing water in the streets, the service center said, and a significant rise in rivers and streams, especially in Coeur d'Alene.

The rain began falling on Wednesday, coming on the back end of a six-inch snowstorm earlier in the week. The mixture has left some city streets like small streams.

"What can you do?" said Jason Duram, running errands with his son on Thursday, driving through the slop in a four-wheel drive truck on Sixth Street. "It's like, I wish they'd hurry up and plow, but we really don't have to worry about it. One way or another it's going to get done."

Schools were closed in Coeur d'Alene, Lakeland and Post Falls because of the tricky conditions.

The Coeur d'Alene Street Department began clearing residential streets Wednesday at 2 p.m. It was on pace to finish the citywide plow Thursday night or early this morning. Two front loaders, out of the 14-rig fleet, broke down Wednesday, which caused a delay.

The department was still on schedule to finish 98 percent of the streets after 30 hours, under the targeted 38-hour window, said Tim Martin, street maintenance superintendent.

But with temps in the mid-40s, the big rigs were plowing slush, not snow Thursday. That can be a little trickier, as water has a way of swimming around the plow compared to the packed stuff.

"It's unusual weather conditions," Martin said. "We'd love to say it was going to go away, because we know it's a hardship on the citizens because you're going to have heavy, wet snow to shovel. There's just nothing much we can do."

After the last storm two weeks ago, the department didn't clear around 35 percent of the streets' accumulated slush in anticipation of the next storm. Those slush piles froze, making navigation difficult. This time around, the department is aiming to clear it all.

"It's a balancing act between the budget, and what you see, and watching the weather closely," Martin said.

He asked residents to keep street drains clear to help handle the water.

From Wednesday through Thursday, Coeur d'Alene police had responded to nine weather-related accidents. But some weren't bothered by the conditions. It is North Idaho after all, they said.

"It's not too bad, but my girlfriend is having a hard time getting around in her two-wheel drive," said John Robinson, outside his home on Hastings Avenue as the plows moved through the neighborhood. "It's what I've come to expect. I've driven in this all my life so I'm used to it."

Just over half an inch of rain had fallen by Thursday afternoon. Up to 2 inches were expected in the valleys across the Inland Northwest, and four inches in the mountains, according to the National Weather Service.

Those totals will come from off and on rain through Sunday, said Cliff Harris, regional climatologist. If the pounding were snow, it would be up to three feet. By Tuesday, colder temperatures will make their return and a few more inches of snow will follow.

The National Weather Service also said on Wednesday that the milder temperatures combined with rain and wind could eliminate most of the snowpack below 4,000 feet in the mountains.

The service also issued backcountry avalanche warnings across the North Idaho mountains.

"I don't let those kinds of things bother me ... It'll all be gone in a couple of weeks," said Julie Miller, shoveling her driveway and chipping away ice outside her Maple Avenue home, before adding: "I should go to the Army Surplus store and buy some gators."

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