HISTORIC SNOWFALL: Relentless storm dumps as much as 20 inches of snow on Pocatello area, causes police to plead with motorists to stay off roads

By Journal Staff; Idaho State Journal

The National Weather Service is describing the snowstorm that has thus far dumped as much as 20 inches of snow on the Pocatello area as a historic event.

The storm arrived early Monday evening and has caused numerous wrecks on local roads, resulted in the city of Pocatello and Bannock County shutting down non-essential services and buildings, and prompted Pocatello police to repeatedly plead with motorists to stay home and refrain from driving until conditions improve.

Thanks to the storm, this winter is now among the top five snowiest ever in Pocatello, the National Weather Service said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, just over 71 inches of snow has fallen in Pocatello this winter. That’s about 22 inches shy of breaking the city’s all-time snow record set during the 1992-93 winter season when 93.3 inches of snow fell. This winter would move up a notch to fourth snowiest in Pocatello’s record books if another 15 inches of snow falls, which would surpass the city’s 1983-84 season when 85.6 inches fell.

This winter has already been record shattering for multiple East Idaho cities.

Idaho Falls has reported 74.1 inches of snow this winter, surpassing that city’s previous high set during the winter of 2020-21 of 69.3 inches. Downey has reported nearly 88 inches of snow, surpassing its previous high of 72.6 inches set during the 2016-17 winter. Inkom has reported a whopping 161.5 inches of snow this winter, destroying its previous high of 90 inches set during the 2019-20 winter.

The weather service issued a special weather alert on Tuesday afternoon stating that the storm would dump record-breaking daily amounts of snow in the Pocatello, Chubbuck, Fort Hall, Blackfoot, American Falls, Aberdeen, Shelley and Firth areas. The snow could continue falling in those areas through Wednesday.

The weather service’s Tuesday alert stated: “One of the heaviest snowfalls in Pocatello history continues this afternoon and expect an additional 1 to 3 inches of snow. Will continue to see reduced visibility driving and snow covered back streets and expect some re-freezing tonight after sunset. Grip levels have improved on main interstates and U.S. Highways this afternoon. Snowfall in the range of 10 to 20 inches has been recorded in the Pocatello/Chubbuck area with this storm.”

The weather service said the storm broke the April 3 record for snowfall at Pocatello Regional Airport with 5.2 inches. It then broke the April 4 record with 6.1 inches of snow recorded at the airport as of Tuesday afternoon, the weather service said. The previous Pocatello snow records for April 3 and 4, both set during the 1983-84 winter season, were 3.4 inches and 1.2 inches, respectively.

The storm resulted in dozens of wrecks on Pocatello area roads on Tuesday morning and prompted multiple local school districts including Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 and American Falls School District 381 to cancel all Tuesday classes.

No serious injuries or fatalities have resulted from the Pocatello area crashes, Idaho State Police said.

On Tuesday afternoon Bannock County issued a news release urging motorists to avoid Pocatello Creek, Mink Creek, Rapid Creek and Buckskin roads because of the dangerous conditions caused by the storm.

The county also said that the Bannock County Courthouse and Annex had closed early on Tuesday and would be closed all day Wednesday because of the severe winter weather. The Bannock County Sheriff’s Office front lobby and driver’s license division also closed early on Tuesday and might be closed Wednesday if weather conditions don’t improve, the county said.

Pocatello City Hall closed early on Tuesday as well and Idaho State University canceled all Tuesday afternoon and evening classes at all of its campuses due to the snowstorm.

Road conditions were so bad Tuesday because of the storm that even a well-traveled freeway was partially shut down.

The stretch of Interstate 86 eastbound that connects to Interstate 15 was so slick and snow-covered on Tuesday morning that several semis got stuck, blocking lanes and significantly backing up traffic. The stuck tractor-trailers caused police to shut down Interstate 86 eastbound in Pocatello and Chubbuck for over three hours.

Pocatello police issued multiple text alerts Tuesday urging motorists to stay at home because of the dangerous road conditions resulting from the falling snow and 45 mph winds. Police stated in a Tuesday morning alert: “The Pocatello Street Department has been working tirelessly to clear the roads from the heavy snowstorm that has hit the Pocatello area. Due to the heavy snowfall, there have been a lot of stuck vehicles and vehicle accidents. If you do not need to, do not drive in these conditions and remain home or your place of business until road conditions improve.”

The weather service issued a winter storm warning and winter weather advisories for East Idaho prior to the storm’s arrival early Monday evening.

The weather service’s prediction that much of East Idaho would receive up to 4 inches of snow Monday night through Tuesday morning proved accurate except for Pocatello and surrounding towns where much more fell and continues to come down.

The storm is the latest in an almost daily series of weather systems to barrel through East Idaho since late March, bringing what seems like a steady wave of snow, rain and high winds to the region. Additional snowfall as well as rain are a possibility for much of East Idaho for the rest of the week but snow accumulations are not expected to be significant, especially after Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the region, an avalanche warning is in effect for the mountains of Bear Lake, Caribou and Franklin counties and wind advisories are in effect in south central Idaho including Twin Falls and Jerome and in southwest Idaho.

Various winter weather warnings are in effect in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Montana because of the storm.

The National Weather Service expects another cold day on Wednesday with some scattered snow events throughout East Idaho, but lower elevation areas including Pocatello, Chubbuck, Fort Hall, Blackfoot, American Falls, Aberdeen, Idaho Falls, Ammon, Firth and Shelley can expect temperatures in the 50s this weekend and close to 60 degrees early next week.

However, for the remainder of spring, East Idaho can expect to see above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures, meaning the snow and cold could continue, the weather service said.

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