POCATELLO — A blizzard warning is in effect for the area today and residents are urged not to travel, according to the National Weather Service.
Road conditions are already slick after earlier snows over the weekend were further compounded by near-blizzard weather at times on Monday, which led to numerous accidents in the Portneuf Valley and throughout the region.
Pocatello police Lt. Steve Stone said his department handled 23 such incidents from 6 a.m. to just after 6 p.m. on Monday.
“There was nothing with significant or major injuries,” he said. “Typically, these aren’t high-speed accidents, there’s just a lot more of them.”
Stone said the usual culprit in these accidents, although low in speed, is a velocity that is too high for the conditions present combined with a lack of room to stop in time.
“A lot of them are simply accidents in which people didn’t give themselves enough time to stop,” he said.
Among the most significant was one handled by the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office.
The accident occurred shortly after 8 a.m. just outside city limits on North Rapid Creek Road between Buckskin and Hoot Owl involving two women, one of whom is two months pregnant.
The women were in a 1997 Buick LeSabre when they lost control of the car and went off the road, into an embankment.
The younger woman, 19, is two months pregnant, but suffered no injuries. Her mother, 51, had to be helped from the car and up the embankment.
Capt. Kevin Fonnesbeck of the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office said the mother was taken to Portneuf Medical Center where she was treated for minor injuries and later released.
Bannock County Search and Rescue helped the mother out of her car and up the embankment. Fonnesbeck said members of the Search and Rescue team are typically sent out to such calls during this time of year.
The agency inundated the most by far was the Idaho State Police. In Region 5, which ranges from Bingham and Power counties to the Gem State’s borders with Wyoming and Utah, there nearly 60 accidents.
The bulk of the incidents were termed “slide-offs,” those in which the car in question slid off the road. There were 42 such incidents reported from midnight Monday through 7 p.m. There were nine “property damage” incidents in which a vehicle struck some time of property, and five actual multi-vehicle accidents.
There were no major injuries in any of these incidents.
Chubbuck dispatchers report no accidents from midnight through 7 p.m. on Monday.
The task of making your way on the roads won’t get any easier today, either.
Travis Wyatt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pocatello, said a blizzard warning has been issues for the Snake River plane, including the Portneuf Valley, starting at 5 a.m. today and in effect until 11 p.m. tonight.
“We are going to get additional snow, but the big concern is also going to be the strong winds blowing around all the snow already on the ground,” Wyatt said.
Forecasted for Tuesday is two to four inches in the valley, and four to eight inches on the benches. That’s heavier than Monday’s snowfall, which was about one to two inches in the lower areas with two to four inches in the benches.
The big story with the system coming today, however, is the wind, and the icy temperatures coming down from the Arctic that will be following the storm.
Wyatt said high temperatures are expected to be in the single digits on Wednesday with a low on Thursday in the negative.
By Friday, however, temperatures will start to quickly climb back to seasonal norms — mid 20s to low 30s — as another system brings some snow late Saturday into early Sunday.
Conditions were so bad in some areas late Sunday and during Monday, that some rural highways were closed.
According to the Idaho Transportation Department, blowing snow led to the closure of Idaho 47 between Ashton and Bear Gulch at 5:15 a.m. on Monday, and of U.S. 20 between Ashton and Island Park Lodge at 11:30 a.m.
Idaho 33 near Newdale, and Idaho 32 between Idaho 33 and Idaho 47, near Ashton, were both closed Sunday evening because of blowing and drifting snow.
Pocatello police’s Lt. Stone said navigating the poor conditions drivers will likely find today is a simple matter of making sure you have plenty of time, and giving yourself plenty of room to stop.
“My advice is always the same: Slow down,” he said.