By STAR SILVA
Hagadone News Network
BONNERS FERRY — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter declared Boundary County a state of emergency Wednesday . The governor also approved Boundary County commissioners’ request for two, 12-men crews from the Idaho Department of Corrections to be sent to the area to shovel snow off of critical infrastructure within the county.
The declaration does not cover private property, driveways or roads, Boundary County public information officer Mike Meier said in a press release issued late Wednesday evening. Meier said it also did not cover home roof snow removal, or any other private snow removal. The assistance may include local schools, the Boundary County Restorium and senior center, and other public structures. Those buildings will be assigned snow removal in order based on roof load abilities and strength, Meier said.
Residents are asked to not call the Boundary County courthouse for private snow removal.
“We are asking local churches, clubs, and associations to please assist the local community as has always been the historic nature of our community,” Meier said. “Please call any of the groups in our community that you know that may be able to assist you. Boundary County volunteers have a long and rich history of assisting their neighbors and friends. It is time for all of those volunteers to assist our community.”
Massive snow accumulations and forecasted rain and snow prompted the commissioners to call a special meeting Tuesday in order to discuss the county’s disaster/emergency situation.
During the meeting, commissioners and Boundary County Emergency Management spoke with Idaho Office of Emergency Management Field Officer Jay Baker and requested to be included in the state of Idaho’s disaster declaration in order to receive assistance from Gov. Otter.
Commissioners also passed the motion to request the DOC crews and their crew supervisors to be sent to Boundary County with the necessary equipment, including shovels, tarps, snow rakes, snow blowers, McLeod tools, etc.
The county is experiencing heavy snowfalls and it has been predicted that more precipitation is on the way, commissioners stated in Tuesday’s email that formally began the process for state assistance. The total accumulation of these factors pose a potential for catastrophic damage to properties and structures, commissioners also stated in the email.
Time is of the essence, especially since the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning on Tuesday that was in effect from 4 p.m. Wednesday through 4 p.m. Thursday, with an estimated four to eight inches of additional snow accumulating in the valleys and an estimated 20 inches falling at higher elevations.
Commissioners said they will assign the DOC inmates to clear off school and county structures that are most likely to incur damage or collapse, such as the Boundary County Middle School, which is first on their list.
“It’s an old building with a flat roof and only has the capacity to withstand about 40 pounds per square foot,” Boundary County Commissioner LeAlan Pinkerton said. “That is going to have to be our top priority.”
The DOC inmates and their crew supervisors are expected to arrive by Thursday morning and will temporarily stay at the Boundary County Armory, according to Meier.