December 30, 2008 in City

Snow, wind on the way

By The Spokesman-Review
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Plow updates: City of Spokane

National Weather Service radar images show the next in a series of winter storms moving into the lower Columbia Basin this evening and headed toward the Inland Northwest.

This storm is expected to bring less snow than the hit the region took on Monday, but it’s also packing some strong winds.

Another potentially stronger storm is due in by New Year’s Day evening with a threat of 6 or more inches of snow and winds strong enough to cause blowing and drifting snow.

Forecasters said that Spokane had an unbelieveable 56.5 inches of snow in 13 days, more than the normal amount of 48 inches in a full winter season.

The winter storms have claimed at least one life of a woman hit by snow falling off a roof in Rockford.

About two inches was forecasted for Spokane through the morning with more in Coeur d’Alene. A winter weather advisory was posted in advance of the storm by the National Weather Service. The region-wide forecast called for 2 to 4 inches.

East wind gusts up to 30 mph are expected tonight, with winds shifting to the southwest after a cold front passes early Wednesday. Gusts Wednesday could hit 50 mph.

The region should see a break in storms Saturday and Sunday before another moist Pacific front moves onshore Monday.

After that, computer forecast models suggest a change in the pattern toward moist, but possibly milder weather.

At 6 p.m., the leading edge of the storm was showing up on radar images in the lower Columbia Basin and heading northeast toward Spokane at a speed of about 50 to 60 mph.

Late New Year’s Day could bring the possibility of blizzard-like conditions, said forecaster Kerry Jones.

Relatively warm air is expected to surge northward Thursday ahead of a deep surface low expected to form off Vancouver Island. As the warm air moves in from the Columbia Basin, any precipitation could be a mix of rain and snow, Jones said in a weather briefing today.

Snowfall this month so far has reached an estimated weight of 15 to 20 pounds per square foot, Jones said in the briefing.

Most homes are designed to withstand loads of 50 pounds per square foot, engineers said.

On Monday, wind-blown snow stranded at least 18 motorists in rural Spokane County who had to be rescued by a volunteer search and rescue organization called the Winter Knights, county officials said.

The state of Washington brought five plow trucks from western Washington to the Spokane area with 10 drivers to provide 24-hour service for the coming week. The Department of Transportation has agreed to help Spokane County open its drifting roads.

A snow blowing truck from the Washington Air National Guard was deployed to help open drifted-over roads, said Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, county spokeswoman.

The county has also contracted for 14 privately-owned truck plows with drivers.

Elsewhere, crews were reportedly making progress in opening main routes and were returning to residential streets for yet another pass.

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