A treacherous mix of snow, ice and rain defined the Treasure Valley morning commute today, with sections of Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 95 closed for brief periods of time due to slide-offs and wrecks.
A winter weather advisory for snow and freezing rain remains in effect until 5 p.m. today, as a glaze of ice and freezing rain is expected to hamper the afternoon commute as well.
A number of the region's school districts decided to cancel or delay classes Wednesday, including the Adrian, Baker, Homedale, Marsing, Nyssa, Parma and Vale school districts. Additionally, Mountain Home Air Force Base alerted its personnel that it was on a two-hour delay this morning.
The National Weather Service Office in Boise is forecasting more freezing rain through the night and a mix of snow and rain for Thursday and Friday, with temperatures near freezing. The true highlight, however, is Saturday's forecast, which calls for mostly sunny skies and a high of 36 degrees. More sunshine is expected Sunday as well.
Eastern Idaho officials say a snowmobiler is lucky to be alive after being buried in an avalanche in southern Bear Lake County.
This morning's Idaho State Journal reports that a joint effort by rescue teams from Bear Lake and Utah's Cache counties rushed to the Beaver Creek area when an avalanche buried a snowmobiler who had been sledding in the remote area in the afternoon hours of Jan. 11.
The victim had to be hoisted up a 1,100-foot ridge during the rescue, and officials said he suffered two broken femurs and a broken arm in the avalanche.
Meanwhile, the Journal reports that conditions are ripe for more avalanches, with blizzard and high-wind warnings continuing into Sunday. Island Park, Driggs, Ashton, St. Anthony, Dubois, Montpelier, Georgetown, Paris, the Bear Lake area, the Grays Lake area, Swan Valley, Soda Springs, Lava Hot Springs, McCammon, Arimo and Downey, are all under a winter storm warning.
The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the Central Idaho mountains, including Sun Valley, Stanley, Hailey, Mackay and Challis.
There's good reason why it's called "Avalanche Alley." A 12-mile stretch of Idaho State Highway 21 between Banner Summit and Grandjean Junction includes nearly 60 spots where nearly 90 percent of all avalanches onto Idaho highways occur. In a typical winter, approximately 250 inches of snow fall on the area.
And due to this week's winter storm and warming trends for the coming weekend, the Idaho Transportation Department has closed Avalanche Alley until further notice.
ITD estimates that nearly 45 to 50 slides happen along Avalanche Alley each winter.
ITD officials said they'll evaluate the roadway for changing conditions, but travelers shouldn't plan on using the roadway anytime soon.
The snow started falling in the Treasure Valley shortly after 10 p.m. Jan. 7. By sunrise, a number of communities around the region reported as much as 5 inches of snow had fallen.
A rash of collisions marked the morning commute, including a bad two-car crash on Interstate 84 near the Flying Wye at approximately 8:30 a.m. Another injury crash was reported near the Flying Wye near Franklin Road around 7 a.m.
Compass Charter School in Meridian was the only school in the region that reported a two-hour delay of classes. While scores of school buses crawled through the pre-dawn mess, classes were reported to be on time at the majority of Boise and Meridian schools.
Ada County Highway District crews worked throughout the night and morning with 50 pieces of equipment spraying de-icer, sand, or both.
"We've got all of our plows out, and the (road) graders," said ACHD supervisor Clint Heckenlively early this morning. "It's still snowing and we're at 28 degrees. We want to make sure what's open stays open. The way it's snowing, it's going to drop another inch."
Sand and salt were being used around intersections, on bridges, overpasses and hills to provide some extra traction.
Most of the region's ski resorts have launched their seasons, but officials at McCall's Brundage Mountain are still anxiously waiting for more snow before they open. The summit depth at Brundage was reported to be 28 inches this morning, but no new snow had fallen over the weekend.
"We hope to make an announcement very soon, but still need several more inches of snow in the base area," reads the Brundage homepage.
Brundage officials said "there is great snow coverage on the top, but the bottom-quarter of the mountain is real thin."
There have been only two times in Brundage's 52-year history that the mountain hasn't been open for Christmas.
Brundage opened Dec. 30 in 2011, the second-latest opening date; the latest was Jan. 8, 1977.
A check with the National Weather Service Office in Boise shows that there's a 40 percent chance of snow for McCall this Wednesday, Dec. 18, a 70 percent chance of snow Wednesday evening, and a slight chance of snow for next weekend.
Following a series of sub-freezing punches to the gut, the Treasure Valley was hit with an uppercut of snow overnight, coating the region's thoroughfares and triggering a frantic search for shovels, ice scrapers and snow tires.
A winter weather advisory remained in effect through the morning as the National Weather Service office in Boise reported an upper level low pressure system pushed snow across Eastern Idaho and Southern Idaho. Westerly winds were clocked as high as 25 mph and a wind chill warning, meaning dangerous wind chill readings were likely, remains in effect through tonight and into Sunday.
Ada County Highway District maintenance crews worked throughout the overnight hours Friday and Saturday, applying de-icing treatments to major arterial roads, intersections and bridges.
"It's always better to get out in front of the weather than to try and play catch up," said Paul Daigle, ACHD's deputy director of maintenance. He added that if the snow was unusually heavy, ACHD would use sand and salt to maintain traction.
ACHD has a 50-vehicle fleet dedicated to winter maintenance, including trucks outfitted for de-icing, sanding, salting and plowing. ACHD services more than 2,260 miles of local streets in Ada County. State highways are managed by the Idaho Transportation Department.
But the worst may be yet to come. The National Weather Service is predicting that tonight's low temperatures will hover around 2 degrees below zero in the Treasure Valley. The forecast for the next several days is sunny and cold, with highs in the 20s, lows in the teens and wind chills dropping to as low as 10 degrees below zero.
One of the region's largest seasonal employers, Bogus Basin, is holding a job fair today.
Bogus officials say they'll be hiring approximately 300 seasonal employees when the snow starts flying. The job fair is slated for 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Bogus Basin office at 2600 Bogus Basin Road.
Currently, Bogus says there are openings for the following positions: auditor, bartender, bus driver, cashier, cook, day care attendant, mechanic, janitor, lift operator, ski instructor, parking lot attendant, plow driver, sales clerk and snowboard instructors.
You can also access a job application by clicking here.
Rescuers recovered the body of 25-year-old Collin Backowski August 4 from Oregon's Mt. Hood. Officials said Backowski had been burried under 8- to 10-feet of snow and ice.
The snowboarder had been missing since an ice tunnel collapsed Aug. 3 on the mountain's White River Glacier. Five of his companions were uninjured and tried to dig Backowski out, but weren't able to break through the ice.
Up to a dozen people used chainsaws and other tools to clear the snow and ice, before recovering Backowski's body.
Rescue efforts have resumed today as emergency responders continue to look for a 25-year-old snowboarder, trapped in a collapsed ice tunnel on Oregon's Mt. Hood on Aug. 3.
Collin Backowski, of Pines, Colo., had been walking through the White River Glacier area with friends Saturday afternoon when the tunnel suddenly collapsed on him, trapping him under a huge piece of hardened ice.
The Oregonian reports that Backowski's friends immediately called police and rescuers swiftly responded to the scene, attempting to dig the young man out for an hour with little success.
Located at an elevation of 8,100 feet, rescuers on the scene were using hand-tools in their digging efforts on Saturday, but planned to return Sunday with heavier equipment.
"This is clearly not a good-looking situation when it comes to survivability," Sgt. Pete Hughes, a spokesman for the Hood River County Sheriff's Office, told The Oregonian.
Following a week of frosty mornings, Treasure Valley motorists were greeted with warmer temperatures today. But don't let that fool you. A series of storms feeding off of tropical moisture from the south Pacific are crawling toward the region, promising four straight days of precipitation and lower temperatures.
The National Weather Service office in Boise is forecasting no flooding for mainstem rivers but significant rises are expected to occur on the Weiser and Payette rivers, and there is a potentital for flooding of small streams in the west-central mountains and the Boise Mountains through Sunday.
The region's ski resort operators are anxiously awaiting the precipitation.
"People are excited, and I just don't think they're buying the idea that we'll have two terrible years in a row," Mike DeBoer, owner of inIdaho.com and president of Brundage Mountain's board of directors told Boise Weekly. "People are booking for Christmas right now, and I can tell you, that's a pent-up demand."
And Brundage President and General Manager Rick Certano told BW that his staff has "the plan" to activate the resort's 7,600-feet-high operations.
"They get the core people, and we build from there," said Certano, who employs 100-120 staff at season's peak. "We don't want to hire any sooner than two weeks before we open. I just tell my staff, 'Be ready.'"
A nonprofit is set to take over the Soldier Mountain Ski Area. This morning's Idaho Mountain Express reports that the resort's new owners will be introduced in a town hall meeting in Fairfield Thursday night.
Actor Bruce Willis, the previous owner, donated the ski area, including two chairlifts and a recently rebuilt lodge, to the nonprofit.
The Mountain Express reports that the nonprofit includes three individuals who are principals in the Boise-based law firm of Varin Wardwell and Thomas: Will Varin, William Wardwell and Robert Thomas. in addition to Fairfield residents Jamon Frostenson and Russell Schiermeier.
Soldier Mountain includes 1,150 acres of skiing across 39 trails.