One of the coldest March weather systems on record sent temperatures plummeting this morning at daybreak, setting a new record low temperature of 5 degrees a few minutes after sunrise.
The new record was recorded at Spokane International Airport about 7:20 a.m., breaking the previous record of 12 degrees on March 10, 1950, in a year that Spokane had its snowiest winter season on record.
Forecasters were calling for a high of 22 today in Spokane, which would set the record for the coldest high temperature for the day. The previous record was 26, also in 1950.
The record cold is expected to continue overnight with a forecasted low of 3 degrees, which would break the record low of 7 set on March 11, 1950.
National Weather Service records show that the coldest temperature ever so late in the winter season is 3 degrees.
Coeur d’Alene is forecast to see a high of 22 and a low of 2. Similar temperatures are forecast across the region from an arctic air mass flowing southward in the wake of Monday’s storm.
The sun was having a hard time warming things up today. The temperature was 13 degrees at the airport at 10:30 a.m. and 19 at 2:30 p.m. with a dewpoint of minus-2 degrees, which is an indication of just how cold it might get tonight since overnight lows often hover above the dewpoint.
Motorists continued to fight icy conditions this morning caused by the 2 to 6 inches of snow that fell Monday, triggering at least 150 accidents in the Spokane region.
The temperature had been in the upper teens through most of the night, but dropped as a result of clearing skies and arctic air moving into the region.
At daybreak, it was 10 degrees under crisp, clear skies, and then fell to 5 degrees before rebounding to 7 degrees just before 8 a.m.
“It’s so cold the de-icer is not working,” said Officer Teresa Fuller of the Spokane Police Department.
The accidents this morning included a single vehicle roll-over on U.S. Highway 195 at Spangle Creek Road.
Spokane International Airport recorded 2.4 inches of snow on Monday and early Tuesday, bringing the season total to 88.8 inches and putting the 2008-2009 winter season in fourth place for cumulative snowfall since records started in 1881.
Elsewhere in the region, 6 inches was reported 6 miles northwest of Spokane; 5 inches east of Moscow; 4 inches at Pullman; 6 inches near Rathdrum; and 4.2 inches a few miles north of Coeur d’Alene.
The National Weather Service posted a hazardous weather outlook for much of the region for record cold today and tonight, and also warned of wind chills in the Okanogan Valley and Waterville Plateau, which are exposed to low-level arctic cold flowing southward.
The city of Spokane activated three warming centers at the House of Charity for single adult men, the Salvation Army for families and couples and Crosswalk for independent youth to allow homeless persons a place to stay warm beginning at 8 p.m.
The rapid drop in temperatures should cause alarm for gardeners. Any new growth from bulbs and other herbaceous plants may be damaged or killed by arctic cold if the plants have started to emerge from dormancy. Alan Tower of Tower Perennial Gardens sent out a warning to customers today advising them to cover or wrap plants that are exposed and sensitive to cold.