Arctic air flowing south Tuesday sent temperatures plummeting into record territory even before the morning sun cleared the horizon.
A record low of 5 degrees at Spokane International Airport was recorded at 7:20 a.m. The reading beat the record of 12 set March 10, 1950. Another record low was expected this morning.
Motorists fought icy conditions left by the 2 to 6 inches of snow Monday and early Tuesday.
The Spokane airport’s 2.4 inches of snow brought the season total to 88.8 inches and puts the 2008-’09 winter season in fourth place for cumulative snowfall since 1881.
Elsewhere in the region, 6 inches of snow was reported six 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 this morning, and it warned of wind chills in the Okanogan Valley and Waterville Plateau in central Washington, which are exposed to low-level arctic cold air flowing southward.
Spokane activated three overnight warming centers Tuesday for homeless people: House of Charity for single adult men, the Salvation Army for families and couples, and Crosswalk for youths.
The rapid drop in temperatures led Alan Tower, of Tower Perennial Gardens, to warn his customers that some plants might need protection, including bulbs and some perennials that have emerged from the ground as well as sensitive shrubs and small trees, some of which were emerging from winter dormancy.
Forecasters said temperatures should rise through the week, with highs today in the upper 20s and lows tonight near 12.
Highs will bounce back in Spokane to around 37 on Thursday, 44 on Friday and 41 on Saturday. There’s a chance of rain or snow Saturday.
The normal temperatures for this time of year are a high of 47 and a low of 29.