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Mild Temperatures Put An End To Big Freeze

First it was the big snow, then the deep freeze and now … the slop.

Rain and mild temperatures are turning the Inland Northwest snowpack into mush as a 19-day stretch of icy weather comes to an end.

It got so cold last week Spokane road crews couldn’t get their de-icers to work. Now they’re facing the opposite problem.

Flooding is possible along streets as well as mountain rivers, officials said.

“If we get heavy rainfall, we could have serious problems,” said Jim Smith, street maintenance supervisor in Spokane.

City crews Monday began clearing storm drains buried under plowed snow. Workers were ordered to keep an eye on trouble spots, such as the bridges along Latah Creek, where chunks of ice often get trapped following an Arctic cold spell.

The National Weather Service is forecasting periods of rain through Thursday. Temperatures should climb into the low 40s today. That’s a change of 66 degrees from last Friday’s record-breaking low of minus 24.

Highs could edge up to 50 degrees by Thursday.

The freezing level was 6,400 feet Monday. Today, snow is forecast above 4,500 feet.

The weather service on Monday issued a flood advisory for the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers in North Idaho.

Two feet of snow covers the lower slopes above those rivers, and forecasters said much of it could melt this week.

But forecasters aren’t hitting the panic button. They expect runoff on the two rivers to crest Thursday slightly below flood stage.

They also said ice jams could occur along rivers as the warmer temperatures begin breaking up frozen sections.

Temperatures are expected to drop back into the 30s by the end of this week, but a possible return to snow and cold weather won’t happen until next week at the earliest, meteorologist Paul Frisbie said.

A strong low-pressure area in the Gulf of Alaska is causing waves of rain to come ashore from California to British Columbia.

The rain is being carried on upper-level winds blowing from the southwest. Last week, a radically different pattern of upper-level winds brought Arctic air out of northern Canada.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo Graphic: How ice dams form

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