Snow levels are likely to rise above valley floors today as milder air from the Pacific Ocean cuts away at the cold air left over from last week’s arctic freeze.
Forecasters said that snowfall rates are slowing down as the first in a pair of Pacific storm systems moves out of the region after dropping 3 to 5 inches in most locations overnight and early today.
Precipitation has been changing to drizzle or mixed snow and rain at lower elevations. The snow level was expected to rise to 2,600 feet in elevations. Highs in the region should reach the lower 30s and possibly go above freezing.
Spokane International Airport reported drizzle and fog at 1 p.m., and a temperature of 34. Drizzle was also falling today downtown and the North Side. Freezing rain was reported in Deer Park.
A second storm wave was moving into the region this afternoon, and forecasters are calling for a mix of snow, freezing rain and rain through Wednesday morning.
The incoming weather system should continue to scour away cold air and raise the snow level to 3,300 feet tonight in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area
Downtown Spokane is about 1,850 feet; Felts Field, 1,950 feet; Coeur d’Alene, 2,180 feet; and Spokane International Airport is at 2,370 feet.
Mountain snow and valley rain are expected Wednesday and Thursday with the chance of precipitation decreasing each day.
At 6:30 a.m., the airport in Spokane had 3.3 inches and the National Weather Service office northwest of Airway Heights had 3.7 inches of snow.
At 8 a.m., reports of 5 inches of snow came from Greenacres and Athol.
About 4 inches was reported in the Garland Avenue district of Spokane.
A winter storm warning for the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene has been extended until 10 p.m. A winter storm warning remains in effect until 4 a.m. Wednesday to the north, including Sandpoint, Rathdrum, Priest River, Newport and Colville.
A total of 6 to 10 inches of snow are possible from the two-day storm in those locations with up to 16 inches in surrounding mountains.
Temperatures across the region remained cold at 7 a.m.
It was 24 at the Spokane airport, 25 in downtown Spokane, 21 in Coeur d’Alene, 25 in Deer park and 43 in Pullman.
The warmer temperature in Pullman shows where the milder Pacific air has cut through the low-lying cold and reached ground level.
Forecasters said a south to southeasterly flow from the Monday night storm would scour out cold air in the Palouse and southern Columbia Basin initially, at the same time the storm pushes the remaining cold air up against mountains to the north and northwest where the cold and snowy conditions are expected to linger into Wednesday.
A small surface low pressure area between Spokane and Pullman this afternoon was allowing a cold northerly flow to keep ground temperatures at or below freezing in the Spokane area, but the broader storm flow off the coast was expected to overtake that minor low pressure area.
The cold air was hanging on in south-central Washington.
An ice storm warning was posted this afternoon for the southern Columbia Basin and lower Yakima Valley for a quarter inch of freezing rain from Connell south to Hermiston, Ore., and including areas west to Prosser and Arlington, Ore.