Brace yourself, Spokane.
What’s starting out as a record-breaking winter has a lot more punch to come, weather experts say.
“The pattern over the next few weeks shows no letup in sight,” said Bob Quinn, a professor who studies long-range climate trends at Eastern Washington University.
With more powder falling late Thursday, Spokane already has seen more than 53 inches of snow this fall and winter. That compares with an annual average of 50 inches.
Quinn, who last October correctly predicted this year’s early winter, now says January will continue the trend - creating the snowiest season in more than a century.
The storm track off the Pacific Ocean should combine with cold air from the north to bring more snow, especially to the mountains, he said.
“It’s going to make the last two weeks look like child’s play,” Quinn said. “We are now on a real record snowfall pace.”
The impressive snowfall so far this season ranks right up there with some of the stormiest winters on record.
In 1964, more than 57 inches of snow had been recorded by New Year’s Eve, the highest total ever through Dec. 31. By the time that winter ended, nearly 82 inches had fallen.
In 1992, more than 51 inches of snow fell in October, November and December. That winter ended with 87 inches, the thirdsnowiest ever.
The most snow on record came in 1949-50 when 93.5 inches fell, followed by 1974-75 with 89 inches.
The records date back to 1885.
“It’s going to be a phenomenal year in terms of runoff, soil moisture and ground water,” Quinn said.
Automated measuring devices in the mountains already are reporting that the snowpack contains at least 24 inches of water, Quinn said.
The risk of flooding has diminished for the time being, Quinn said, because the snowpack is deep enough to absorb a lot of rain during a warming trend. Much of the runoff and flood threat may not materialize until late winter and spring, he said.
Meanwhile, the winter storm warning issued for Thursday was extended for this morning.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service said the snowfall should taper off late today, but there’s plenty more to follow. Snowfall is expected to continue off and on through the next week.
Satellite images and forecast charts show yet another storm system winding up off the Pacific coast.
“It’s headed our way, and we are going to get another storm,” said Lyle Hammer, forecaster for the Weather Service in Spokane.
Computer forecast models, which extend for 7 to 10 days, show the storm track intensifying.
On Thursday, the heaviest snow was reported south in the Lewiston and Pullman areas.
Seattle, Portland and other areas of Western Washington and Oregon saw wintry conditions Friday after cold air from Canada invaded much of the Pacific Northwest on Christmas.
In Spokane, 19 inches of snow was on the ground at the weather service office near Airway Heights before the latest storm hit Thursday.
A total of 23.7 inches of rain and melted snow have fallen so far this year at Spokane International Airport, making 1996 the fifth-wettest year on record.
If another inch of melted snow is recorded, 1996 could move to third place ahead of 1881, which had 24.68 inches of precipitation. The record was in 1948 at 26.07.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Graphic: Heaviest snowfalls