December 15, 2009 in City

First heavy snow, then rain, forecast

Icy commute expected this morning
By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photo

Julie Kress, of Coeur d’Alene, puts up lights around her home Monday. Several inches of snow are expected in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area early today, but it won’t last long. But as much as 15 inches could accumulate in more mountainous areas of the
(Full-size photo)

For updates

Dial 511 for the latest reports by phone on mountain pass and highway conditions in Washington and Idaho.

Snow is expected to change to rain later today in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area as temperatures rise above freezing for the first time in two weeks.

But the milder temperatures might not prevent an icy commute this morning.

A moist southwesterly flow was moving onshore above remnants of arctic cold, initially bringing snow but more seasonable temperatures and rain, said forecaster John Livingston, of the National Weather Service.

“We are going to scour out some of the cold air,” he said.

As much as 5.5 inches of snow was expected to fall in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene before the precipitation changes to a snow-rain mix about 10 a.m. and then to rain by tonight, when a second storm will arrive off the Pacific Ocean.

Today’s highs are forecast for 33 in Spokane and 35 in Coeur d’Alene. The temperatures should stay in the lower to mid-30s through the night.

Arctic cold that had gripped the Inland Northwest for the past 10 days will linger near the mountains of North Idaho and Northeast Washington and the east slopes of the Cascades, where snow is forecast to continue today.

Forecasters on Monday said they expect 8.8 inches of snow in Sandpoint, 8.6 inches in Colville, 5.2 inches in Pullman, 5.3 inches in Moses Lake and 4.4 inches in Ritzville and 9 inches in Ellensburg through today.

The higher snowfall amounts indicate where forecasters expect the cold air to hang on the longest. Freezing rain could fall today near Wenatchee.

A winter weather advisory Monday was upgraded to a more severe winter storm warning north of a line running from Yakima to Rosalia.

Forecasters said as much as 15 inches may accumulate in mountainous areas of Northeast Washington and North Idaho by Wednesday. The snow could be trouble for cross-state travelers. Interstate 90 passes in Washington and Idaho were open Monday with compact snow and ice, but conditions were expected to deteriorate by today.

Higher air pressure and drier conditions should prevail over the region Thursday through the weekend, Livingston said, but that creates the possibility of fog and low clouds.

Periods of valley rain and mountain snow look possible next week through Christmas, he said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email