Sunday, April 12, 2015

Early Snowpack Melt Affects Idaho, Other Western States

Posted By on Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 10:57 AM

Across the western United States, snowpack is at record lows and melting faster than in years past. - UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
  • United States Department of Agriculture
  • Across the western United States, snowpack is at record lows and melting faster than in years past.
Southwestern Idaho had a drier-than-normal winter and now, the United States Department of Agriculture warns snowpack across the western United States is melting early this year.

Peak snowpack usually occurs around April 1 but this year, there was little precipitation in March and according to a USDA report, what little snow fell between 2014 and early 2015 is melting faster than normal.

"Almost all of the West Coast continues to have record low snowpack. March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual," Natural Resources Conservation Service Hydrologist David Garen wrote in the report. 

Early melting may contribute to the west's already-severe water woes. On April 1, California Governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent reduction in that state's water use. 

In Idaho, noticeable snowpack-related challenges have included the early closure of Bogus Basin and, according to an Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service report, that's the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg: As a result of a warmer, drier March, Idaho saw a decrease in snowpack of between 20 percent and 30 percent. Of 137 sites across the state where snowpack is measured, only 30 of them reported March snow accumulation.
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Monday, January 5, 2015

Avalanche Dangers Present in Boise National Forest

Posted By on Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 3:30 PM

This avalanche was skier-triggered on Dec. 21, 2014 near Mores Creek Summit. - BOISE NATIONAL FOREST
  • Boise National Forest
  • This avalanche was skier-triggered on Dec. 21, 2014 near Mores Creek Summit.
The mountains of the Boise National Forest are not so stable today as snow falls and weather warms. According representatives of the Boise National Forest, backcountry skiers and snowmobilers are warned to use caution over the next few days and carry avalanche rescue gear when traveling on or near steep slopes.

The warning comes after remote SNOTEL weather stations across the forest report heavy, wet snow with up to two inches of water equivalent in over a foot of snow from Sunday night's storm.

The Payette Avalanche Center is calling the the avalanche hazard considerable today on all slopes over 30 degrees. 

"Heavy snowfall, winds gusting over 25 mph and warming temperatures added a lot of new weight on top of a variety of old snow surfaces including ice crusts and surface hoar," wrote a representative of the Payette Avalanche Center advisory for Jan. 5. "Ski and ride low angle slopes today or utilize inbounds terrain at local ski resorts to get your fresh snow fix."

David Olson, of the Boise National Forest, said in a news release that it takes several days for the avalanche risk to dissipate as new snow settles and bonds with existing snowpack.

"Although the Payette Avalanche Center does not forecast specifically for the Boise National Forest, their updates relate to snow conditions within the forest," he added.

The Sawtooth Avalanche Center is also reporting considerable avalanche danger for the Sawtooth National Forest. The rating scale goes from low to moderate to considerable to high to extreme.
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Monday, December 29, 2014

More Traffic Accidents, Injuries, on Idaho Roadways

Posted By on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 at 10:19 AM

Treacherous driving conditions defined much of the long holiday weekend for tens of thousands of Idaho motorists, and the latest round of bad accidents resulted in two hospitalizations in the Magic Valley—one of a man who slammed into a snowplow and a Twin Falls County Sheriff's deputies who was struck by another vehicle.

Idaho State Police report that 28-year-old Justin Blau of Twin Falls was taken by ambulance to Cassia Regional Medical Center in Burley after he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a snowplow in the median of Interstate 84 near the Cotterel Port of Entry.

ISP also report that a TFCSO deputy was injured when his patrol vehicle was struck by a car traveling north on U.S. Highway 93 near Twin Falls Sunday night. 35-year-old Twin Falls County Sheriff's deputy Stanton Wiggins of Filer was taken by ambulance to St. Luke's Magic Valley Regional Medical Center. ISP closed U.S. 93 for nearly six hours Sunday evening while investigating the crash.

Meanwhile, in the Treasure Valley, police are looking for the public's help in their investigation of a Dec. 27 accident in Garden City that sent a woman to the hospital.

Garden City Police say they have identified the driver of a vehicle that made a right turn from Chinden Boulevard to Curtis Road and reportedly struck a female pedestrian. The victim was taken to a local  hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. But police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the crash to assist their investigation by calling Crime Stoppers at 343-COPS.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

ACHD Crews Prepare to Spend Their Holiday Coping With White Christmas

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 2:05 PM

It's a fair bet that crews with the Ada County Highway District will be spending a part of their Christmas trying to keep roadways clear so that residents can make their way to Midnight Mass and family gatherings as the Treasure Valley gets a blast of winter weather, practically guaranteeing a chance for a White Christmas.

The National Weather Service office in Boise is forecasting an 80 percent chance of precipitation on Christmas Eve, with new snow accumulation of around an inch. Things get cold overnight and Christmas Morning should also see more snow. While Friday, Dec. 26, should see clear, cold conditions, more snow is in the forecast for the final weekend of 2014.

"The Highway District's crews will remain on-call over the holiday," said an ACHD release, issued Tuesday afternoon. "Our on-call supervisors will monitor the weather hourly, and crews will be ready to react accordingly."

One major concern is that rain (which is expected to preclude the snow) could prevent crews from pretreating the roads with magnesium chloride—it washes away—but the ACHD says if the snow that follows creates icy conditions, sand and//or salt will be used on area roadways.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Heater Goes Out In Washington County Jail

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 2:46 PM

The now weeklong blast of arctic air has triggered some school closures, snarled traffic and brought the temperature down considerably at the Washington County Jail.

Boise Weekly was alerted to the problem by a family member of an inmate who said that the heat had been off "for more than a week," but Washington Coounty Sheriff Matt Thomas says "that's not exactly true."

"Yes, we had a heater go out Tuesday (Nov. 18) in one of our pods," said Thomas, referring to a cell area that houses up to six inmates. "But I can tell you that the temperature has never gone below 68 degrees there. We have a thermostat there that we're checking regularly."

But getting a necessary part for the broken heater has been another problem.

"We were hoping to get that part today," Thomas told BW late Thursday. "But as soon as we get it, we'll get that heater going again."

Thomas said at no time were inmates needed to be moved due to cold.

Thomas told BW that currently, his county jail in Weiser was housing more than 40 inmates, including prisoners from other counties, and state and federal inmates.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ACHD Pauses Third, Fourth Street Two-Way Conversions Due to Weather

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Last week's early, heavy snowfall has slowed—but not stopped—progress on converting Third and Fourth streets in downtown Boise from one-ways to two-ways.

"We need clean, dry pavement" in order to paint new lines on city streets, said ACHD spokesman Craig Quintana.

But there's more to a road conversion than painting lines, and ACHD isn't letting ice get in the way of other improvements to the streets that go along with turning Third and Fourth into two-ways. Those include digging up concrete near intersections and installing signal pulls for crosswalks.

Last week, Boise Weekly reported that the conversions would be completed Wednesday, Nov. 19, and Quintana said construction would resume as soon as the weather allows.
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Accidents, Slide-Offs Accompany Treasure Valley's First Winter Storm of Season

Posted By on Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Ada County Highway District crews were out in force overnight and through Thursday morning, attempting to stay in front of the first taste of winter. Ada County roadways were treated with magnesium chloride beginning at 2 a.m., in an effort to prevent ice from accumulating. ACHD's winter maintenance crew includes 125 people who work alternating shifts, operating sanders, salt- and de-icing trucks and 23 snow plows across 2,200 miles of local roads.

A single-car rollover blocked the Eagle Road on-ramp to I-84 this morning, adding to the already-tangled rush hour. One person was taken to the hospital from the accident.

Idaho State Police reported nearly two dozen accidents across the Treasure Valley by late morning.

A winter storm warning has been issued for the Boise Mountains for Thursday afternoon through early Friday morning. Up to 15 inches of snow is expected for the region, which winds gusting up to 15 miles per hour, creating very treacherous driving in mountain communities.

Meanwhile, a winter weather advisory is in effect for much of the rest of southwest Idaho, with two inches of new snow expected in the valleys, and winds gusting to 15 mph.

Thursday night lows in Boise should hover around 30 degrees and Friday's wintry mix should accompany a high of 39 degrees. Clear, cold weather is expected for the weekend.

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Avalanche Warning for Mountains Near Fairfield, Stanley

Posted By on Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 10:25 AM

Avalanches were remotely triggered at several sites in the Sun Valley area, including Mushroom Ridge, on Sunday, Feb. 9. - COURTESY CHRIS MARSHALL (SUN VALLEY TOURING) VIA SAWTOOTH AVALANCHE CENTER
  • Courtesy Chris Marshall (Sun Valley Touring) via Sawtooth Avalanche Center
  • Avalanches were remotely triggered at several sites in the Sun Valley area, including Mushroom Ridge, on Sunday, Feb. 9.

The National Weather Service is cautioning recreationists to avoid a number of trails in the Sun Valley area.

The NWS office in Boise has issued an avalanche warning for the areas of Soldier, Smokey, Boulder and Sawtooth mountains.

"New snowfall and strong winds have produced unstable snow and avalanches are likely on steep, snow-covered slopes and gullies in the mountains,” wrote the NWS. “It will be possible for slides to reach exposed roadways and trails. Avoid travel and recreation in avalanche terrain. Be aware of sloping terrain, and avoid avalanche path runout areas."

A spokesman for the Sawtooth Avalanche Center added that moderate to strong winds, coupled with one-and-a-half to three feet of new snow triggered the avalanche warning. The avalanche center said the warning was extended for mountains around Fairfield, Stanley and Galena Summit.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old Brigham Young University student was killed Feb. 8 when she was caught in an avalanche while snowshoeing in Utah's American Fork Canyon. Rescuers said the student was buried in the avalanche for about 40 minutes before she could be pulled out. She was rushed to a Provo hospital but died a short time later. Utah officials reported at least 14 avalanches in the region over the weekend.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

UPDATE: Water Line Break Tangles ParkCenter Traffic As Winter Blasts Region

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 11:48 AM

UPDATE: Feb. 7, 2014 11:30 a.m.

The Ada County Highway District says northbound ParkCenter Boulevard remains closed near the Park Boulevard bridge following an early morning water line break. Northbound traffic on ParkCenter is being diverted east down Beacon Street, and onto Broadway Avenue and then north to Park Boulevard.

Crews from United Water are on the scene and they estimate it will take approximately 6 hours to repair the broken water line. C&A Paving is supply asphalt for United Water's repair and Capital Paving will be restoring that part of the road. The repairs are anticipated to last at least through Monday, Feb. 10, and possibly longer.

Meanwhile, motorists are being cautioned to avoid the area where Park Boulevard, Clearwater Lane and Front Street intersect through Monday, Feb. 10, or until the lane has been repaired and reopened.

ORIGINAL POST: Feb. 7, 2014 9 a.m.

A so-called "Pineapple Express" is dumping a ton of moisture on the Pacific Northwest this morning, including Idaho, and while the much-needed precipitation is far from calming the fears about a significant shortfall in the region's water tables, it still created quite a mess for commuters Friday morning.

Ada County Highway District plows and sand-spreading trucks worked all night in an attempt to get ahead of the early morning conditions on area roadways. Parts of Ada County received between two and five inches of snow overnight, with the biggest accumulations reported in the Boise Foothills and in areas north of Eagle and Star. Portions of Payette, Weiser, the Magic Valley and Wood River Valley got significantly more snow.

ACHD reports that it deployed some 50 pieces of equipment, mostly trucks equipped with de-icer and sand to tackle bridges, intersections, hills and near schools.

But many of the region's schools decided to call it a "snow day" well before sunrise, beginning with Idaho's two largest districts, Boise and Meridian.

Dozens of schools throughout Southwest Idaho canceled classes today, including Anser Charter, Bishop Kelly High, Compass Charter, the Emmett School District, the Foothills School of Arts and Sciences, the Fruitland School District, Giraffe Laugh Daycare, the Montessori Academy, North Star Charter, the New Plymouth School District, Riverstone International, Rolling Hills Public Charter and Village Charter.

Meanwhile, the morning rush hour was that much more challenging Friday morning after a water main broke near Boise's Parkcenter Bridge. Boise Police blocked off the bridge at Park and Parkcenter due to the break.

Boise Police officers reported that Friday's morning's commute would probably take at least twice the normal time just within the city limits.

But it didn't take long for the region's ski resorts to quickly send out tweets and update their Facebooks with a "powder alert," reporting significant amounts of new snow at the bases and summits.

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ITD to Close 'Avalanche Alley' Again

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 11:35 AM

Idaho's "Avalanche Alley" is set to be closed later today, the second time the stretch of state Highway 21 has been closed due to weather this season. The road was closed through much of the weekend of Jan. 10-12 after snow slides.

The Idaho Transportation Department announced earlier today that the 12-mile stretch of Idaho 21 between the Grandjean Junction and Banner Summit would be closed as an avalanche-safety precaution, beginning at 6 p.m. Feb. 7. The area received more than eight inches of snow overnight and heavy snowfall is expected to continue through much of the weekend.

"Avalanche Alley" accounts for 90 percent of avalanches on Gem State highways. ITD reports an average of 45-50 slides each year and more than 250 inches of snow on average.

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