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Record cold coming in wake of snow

Mon., March 9, 2009, 3:21 p.m.

Record cold weather is expected across the Inland Northwest Tuesday and Tuesday night as cold arctic air flows into the region behind today’s snowfall.

Snow began about 6 a.m. in Spokane, and set off a series of accidents, including a fatal collision on U.S. Highway 395 at Regina and Whitworth drives.

Bigelow Gulch Road was closed about 3:20 p.m., and a multi-car collision was reported on Argonne Road hill about the same time.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory through 5 a.m. Tuesday for 2 to 4 inches of snow across much of the region as a new arctic front is expected to slip southward from British Columbia later today. Some locations could see 6 inches, forecasters said.

Tuesday’s high in Spokane should reach only 21 degrees, which would break the record for the coldest high temperature on March 10, which was 26 degrees in 1950.

The low Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning is predicted to be 5 degrees in Spokane. The record low for March 11 is 7 degrees in 1950.

“Temperatures are going to be going down significantly,” said Kerry Jones, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Spokane.

Similar cold temperatures are expected Wednesday morning throughout the region, including 4 degrees in Coeur d’Alene, minus-6 in Deer Park, 7 in Pullman and 3 in Sandpoint.

Records would likely be set in St. Maries, Bonners Ferry and elsewhere as the temperature plummets to the low single digits early Wednesday.

The winter weather advisory covers all of North Idaho north of Lewiston along with Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille, Stevens and the northeast corner of Lincoln counties in Washington.

Snow is expected to fall on and off throughout the rest of today, and the radar in Spokane showed a steady line of snow moving from southwest to northeast across the Columbia Basin into North Idaho. A high of 31 had been expected today in Spokane, but the temperature at most locations remained in the upper 20s with the exception of Coeur d’Alene, which reported 38 degrees.

Frigid air behind the front could keep the high temperature below freezing at 28 degrees on Wednesday in Spokane but warming later in the week.

“What we are going through now will be a faint memory,” Jones said.

Highs should reach 35 on Thursday and 43 on Friday when dry sunny weather begins to show a trend toward spring. Spring arrives at 4:44 a.m. on March 20.

Earlier today, 4 inches of snow was reported by 2 p.m. in Colville and at the weather service office near Airway Heights.

On Sunday morning, heavy snow was reported in Bonner County, including 11 inches in Clark Fork and 6 inches 13 miles northeast of Sandpoint.

Today’s snow pushes Spokane’s season total to nearly 90 inches, making it the third or fourth snowiest winter on record. Officially at Spokane International Airport, a total of 86.8 inches of snow had fallen by early today, which was in fifth place behind the 87.3 inches in 1992-93.

A year ago, Spokane had 92.6 inches, making it the second snowiest season on record behind the all-time high of 93.5 inches that fell in 1949-50.

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