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Snow to keep coming

Wed., Dec. 17, 2008, 3:58 p.m.

Snow was piling up in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Deer Park and other communities in the region as the first part of an arctic storm made its advance into the Inland Northwest with forecasters saying it would hang over the region through Thursday night.

In Coeur d’Alene about 3:30 p.m., from 8 to 9 inches of snow was reported in two locations and 11 inches was measured 10 miles south of Coeur d’Alene. Also, 8 inches was reported in southeast Spokane; 7 inches in Liberty Lake; and 6 inches in northwest Spokane.

Forecasters said Kootenai County appeared to be at the storm’s bullseye. Forecasters said an additional 6 to 9 inches was expected tonight with even more on Thursday.

On the West Plains of Spokane, snow was falling at a rate of two inches per hour around noon with the band of heavy snow headed east into Kootenai County.

Forecasters said the storm’s intensity would continue across the region tonight with a total by Thursday evening reaching 8 to 12 inches across a winter storm warning area in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

The heaviest snow was in a band from Pomeroy to Colfax to Coeur d’Alene where the frontal system had slowed its southeastward progression, causing snow to keep falling.

The snow triggered a rash of accidents throughout the day, including several partially or fully blocking Interstate 90 in Post Falls and Spokane. Icy conditions forced closure of some of the hilly arterials in Spokane.

The National Weather Service said it expects the Spokane area to get 4 to 7inches tonight; 2 to 3 inches Thursday; and 1 to 2 inches on Thursday night when arctic winds return from the north.

Similar amounts were forecasted for the Palouse region as well as northern counties. Additional snow was expected in the mountains and the cities in North Idaho’s Silver Valley. Lighter snow was forecasted for the upper Columbia Basin.

The heaviest snow band tonight was forecasted to run from the Walla Walla area northeastward into western Montana with the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas at the heart of the greatest predicted snowfall.

“It looks pretty good in terms of heavy snowfall,” said Kerry Jones, forecaster for the National Weather Service.

Early morning temperatures today ran six to seven degrees warmer than on Tuesday morning. The dawn rush hour began at between 7 and 10 degrees in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas, and temperatures increased by afternoon to 13 in Spokane, 16 degrees in Coeur d’Alene and 20 degrees in Cheney.

The overnight low at Spokane International Airport was minus-1 degree, which occurred around 10 p.m. Tuesday. A slow moderating of temperatures occurred overnight in advance of today’s predicted snow storm.

Weather Service meteorologists said the snow this morning was closely following their forecasts from Tuesday when they issued a winter storm warning for potentially heavy snow for much of the Inland Northwest. That warning remains in place today.

They said the storm was shaping up to bring an unusual mix of northerly cold and Pacific moisture. Its initial phase was forecasted to bring light snow, but instead heavy snow fell. Snow was described as light and powdery by forecasters who did a quick calculation to determine that it contained a water equivalent of 25 inches of snow to 1 inch of water, compared with a wet snow that might have a water equivalent of 10 or 12 to 1.

The low pressure center that was forecast to bring the snow had originated over the Arctic Ocean on Monday and was driven southward on upper level winds that brought last week’s brief snowfall and subsequent blast of arctic air.

More cold weather is expected later this week.

But today should bring a brief break in the worst of the cold with a high of 18 and an overnight low of 15 in Spokane. A high of 16 to 19 is expected Thursday. As arctic air returns, temperatures will drop again below zero on Friday night. Wind chills are not going to be as bad as they were earlier this week, however.

The arctic cold should stay around until next week, although a slight increase in temperatures could arrive starting Sunday with highs in the lower 20s possibly by Wednesday.

Coeur d’Alene should see similar temperatures, but with a high on Thursday of about 20.

A chance of snow returns to the forecast Saturday night and Sunday.

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