Snow is falling again in the Spokane area as a potentially strong low-pressure system moves into the Inland Northwest.
National Weather Service forecasters said about 6 inches of snow may fall in Spokane with similar amounts elsewhere across the region before the snow turns to a mix of snow and rain or all rain by nightfall. Areas closer to the Canadian border will see only snow, and more of it. Areas to the south of Spokane may see more rain and less snow.
Winds of 20 to 35 mph with gusts to 40 mph should accompany the precipitation, but the rain may provide some dampening to the threat of drifting snow. On Wednesday, Spokane County officials reported that numerous outlying roads were plugged with drifts from morning winds.
The precipitation is expected to end Friday morning, ushering in cold air from the north. Spokane could drop to the teens to single-digit lows Friday night. Then, the region will see a break in storms until late Sunday into Monday when more snow, and no rain, appears likely. Yet a third storm is expected at the middle of next week.
Kerry Jones, forecaster at the National Weather Service, said during a Wednesday briefing that the Thursday storm is drawing moist air off the subtropical Pacific Ocean. “It’s gong to have a good juicy tape of air coming at us,” he said.
“It’s going to be a significant storm.”
Jones said a low pressure system was expected to approach the Washington coast near the Olympic mountains early Thursday and then migrate in an east-southeastward direction toward Spokane, and strengthen as it moves toward Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. The heaviest precipitation could come in band near the center and just north of the low, making it possible that snow and rainfall amounts could vary in the Inland Northwest.
The low that crossed the region Monday followed a track that favored heavy snow in Spokane. While Spokane International Airport had about 8 inches, other locations had 10 inches or more with higher amounts coming on the north side of the city.
Winds that whipped across the Spokane area Wednesday caused the snowpack at the airport to shrink from 23 to 20 inches, Jones said. Wind settles new snow and will cause snow crystals to turn to water vapor without melting, he said.
Spokane ended December with 61.5 inches of new snow fall, most of it coming from Dec. 17 to 29 when 56.5 inches fell. That included 23.6 inches on Dec. 17 and 18. The snow came in a succession of six storm systems with lighter snowfall in between storm pulses.
A reporting station along the Spokane River in Coeur d’Alene had 56.1 inches of snow in December.