SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has issued an emergency proclamation for 15 counties, mostly in snowbound Eastern Washington, struggling with mountain avalanches and paralyzed by inability to get deep snow off its streets and highways.
The governor's announcement, after briefings by municipal and county officials in Spokane Thursday, allows local governments and the State Department of Transportation to bypass normal bidding requirements so they can quickly hire private companies to help with snow removal.
Interstate 90, the state's main east-west link, was closed at Snoqualmie Pass by deep snow and avalanche danger Wednesday.
Yakima and Walla Walla are included in the emergency proclamation. Gregoire said that safety is the top priority, but getting all the passes back open is also important for the commerce of the area.
She said, "Please stay positive. The skies will clear. The snow will melt."