School bus slides off road

The weather continued its streak of fluctuating temperatures and precipitation changes. Those factors likely contributed to a traffic incident when a school bus slid off the road near Springdale in southern Stevens County Wednesday morning. The bus, which belongs to the Mary Walker School District, was traveling along the 4100 block of Cemetery Road when it left the roadway and ended up on its side. According to Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen, there were 23 people on the bus. Eight students were transported to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane for treatment of minor injuries, but no one was seriously injured, the sheriff said. The accident was reported around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. Allen said it was not yet apparent if any charges would be filed against the bus’s driver. “We think the incident was caused by slick, icy roadways, but the investigation is preliminary at this point, so we don’t have all the information just yet,” Allen said. Other school districts in the area were also feeling the effects of the random weather. Heavy snows combined with rainfall created a thick layer of ice on some county mountain roads, causing the Kettle Falls School District to call off school Wednesday. Colville School District had reportedly a few bus routes that were behind schedule, but school started on time. Chewelah schools also started on time last Wednesday.‘We really don’t have snow days…’ According to Kettle Falls School District Director of Transportation and Maintenance, John Harris, the school district received a call from the Stevens County Public Works Department at 5:50 a.m. on Wednesday reporting that five of the 12 bus routes were “impassable” due to ice. “The road conditions higher up on some of our mountain routes were too much,” said Harris. “We had the county guys telling us they couldn’t get up them in their trucks, because it was shear ice.” Harris added that chaining wheels usually doesn’t help in icy situations, and it’s usually tumultuous “spring “ weather that can cause school to be canceled. “We really don’t have snow days in this area,” explained Harris. “I think last school year we were only late two hours one day. It’s when you get hard snow fall compacted with rain that freezes is when it becomes a problem.” Jim Whitbread, Director of the Stevens County Public Works Department, says field personnel are in direct contact with local school district transportation foremen, relaying road conditions back to bugs garages. “We had been watching the weather forecast before last week, and were doing our best to stay on top of it, but unfortunately, we couldn’t stay ahead of it,” Whitbread said. “You can remove snow, but when you have those temperature extremes, it makes for compact ice, and the only thing that is going to get rid of that is warmer temperatures.”