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February 2014

From the Regional Administrator
Keith Metcalf 

Welcome to our February 2014 newsletter. This month we recap our weather-related challenges.

As always, if you have any questions on items in this newsletter, or other transportation issues, please let me know. Give me a call at (509) 324-6010 or drop me an e-mail at:

Keith Metcalf
Regional Administrator
WSDOT Eastern Region


Winter weather challenges

As far as weather goes this February, we’ve had a little bit of everything there is to offer. The month started with a cold snap. During part of the first week, overnight lows dipped into the single digits. With those low temperatures, the ground around the region was frozen solid. Then the snow came. Between February 7 and 10 up to a foot of snow landed in some areas with the highest depths recorded in the Palouse. That made driving a challenge for several days as crews attempted to keep the highways clear. Then the winds came. On State Route 27, up to six feet of snow drifted across the roadway between Tekoa and Fairfield forcing a nine-hour closure while crews cleaned it up.

With all that snow sitting on frozen ground, crews were worried about flooding when the weather turned warmer, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 11 and 12, high temperatures rose into the mid 40’s with high winds blowing in from the southwest. On Wednesday, gusts were nearly 40 m.p.h.

The snow quickly began to melt and the subsequent runoff filled the drainage ditches and culverts, spilling out onto the roadway in many places. State highways in Whitman County, Lincoln County, and Spokane County were the hardest hit with water and/or mud affecting drivers at multiple locations on US 195, SR 23, SR 25, SR 27 and others. State Route 23 was closed between St. John and Sprague for about 12 hours. Water and mud caused problems in Colfax, Uniontown, and Oakesdale along with highway segments on US 2, SR 127, SR 194, SR 271 and SR 272.

After the heavy water flows subsided, it took crews a couple of days to get mud cleared off the highway. On SR 231, near Rosenoff Road, a mud flow nearly filled an 8-foot box culvert and the adjacent creek requiring us to bring in a contractor with heavy equipment to clear it. That work took nearly a week to complete.

The weather has calmed down somewhat, but more snow is in the forecast so winter isn’t over. In most areas, our crews will remain on their winter shift, seven day per week rotation through March keeping a watch for snow and ice on the Region highways.