Temperatures dropped to the single digits in most locations across the Inland Northwest this morning, and forecasters are calling for even more frigid temperatures on Tuesday morning and a chance of snow Saturday and Sunday.
Computer forecast models are pointing to the possibility that a warm front could push into the region Saturday or Sunday, bringing a chance of moderate to heavy snow in a relatively narrow band somewhere between the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area and northern Oregon.
The modeling shows that a foot of snow is possible, but forecasters said the indications on the computers today may not pan out this weekend.
At 7 a.m. today, it was 8 degrees at Spokane International Airport, 11 at downtown Spokane, 9 in Coeur d’Alene and Deer Park and 7 in Pullman.
Winds were gusting to 18 mph in downtown Spokane and 24 mph in Deer Park, creating wind chills of minus-10 degrees in downtown Spokane and even colder in Deer Park. The wind chill is based on the combination of wind and cold and its effect on the skin.
By 2 p.m., the temperature was 15 degrees with a wind chill of 1 degree at the airport. A wind gust of 24 mph was reported at the airport between 11 a.m. and noon.
The record low for Tuesday is minus-11 set in 1972.
Forecasters said they expect the winds to subside today, but temperatures to drop to zero or colder across the region tonight. The wind chill will continue in the range of minus-13 degrees tonight under 8 mph northeast winds in Spokane.
On Sunday, gusts hit 37 mph at the airport in Spokane and 45 mph in Sandpoint.
Forecaster Rocco Pelatti said that the low temperature tonight would be colder if there was snow on the ground. He said snow allows for efficient radiational cooling when the winds die down. With snow, it could get as cold as minus-13 degrees, which is the predicted dewpoint, he said.
The city of Spokane has activated two warming centers at the Salvation Army, 204 E. Indiana Ave., and House of Charity, 32 W. Pacific Ave., to house homeless residents during the bitter cold.
Highs today under sunny skies should reach 15 to 16 degrees in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene with similar temperatures on Tuesday.
The arctic air lowered pollution levels this morning to the low end of the good range. The air quality index number was 14 this morning while the good range is from 0 to 50.
The arctic cold should continue through the week with highs in the teens and lows in the single digits above zero. Moderation of the cold arrives on Thursday night and Friday with a low in the teens and a high on Friday of 25 degrees in Spokane.
Snow is possible this weekend, although the chances are only 20 to 30 percent on Sunday. Pelatti said that forecast models are not projecting any major storms to overrun the cold air that is now in place, so any snowfall should be light.
On Sunday, the high of 26 degrees was reached just after midnight, and the low of 10 degrees came just before midnight on Monday.
Temperatures could return to normal by Sunday.
The averages for today are 34 for a high and 23 for a low.