Freeze watch posted for Tuesday night

MONDAY, MAY 11, 2009, 2:30 P.M.

Warm up coming over weekend

The National Weather Service this afternoon issued a freeze watch for Tuesday night for the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas as well as the Columbia Basin north of Connell and most of the Palouse.

Unseasonably cold weather with the chance of showers and blustery winds on Tuesday will give way to one more rainstorm Wednesday night before another warm-up this weekend.

Highs on Sunday should go well into the 70s, forecasters said in a conference call this afternoon.

“This weekend is shaping up to be pretty warm,” said forecaster Kerry Jones, “and I mean a big warm-up.”

But first, the region will be under threat of freezing weather that could damage sensitive foliage and plants, including tomatoes, fruit crops and bedding plants. Forecasters said steps should be taken, if possible to protect plants, including bringing tomatoes and tender annuals indoors or providing some kind of covering.

Lows in Spokane Tuesday night and early Wednesday should reach 30 degrees for several hours. Similar lows of 29 are forecast for Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint and Pullman.

The average date of the last freezing overnight low in Spokane is May 4, and for Pullman, it is May 12.

Today’s blustery winds should continue on Tuesday. Snow levels could fall as low as 3,500 feet, and showers may contain soft hail known as graupel, Jones said.

The cause of the unseasonably cool weather is an upper-level low pressure system following today’s cold front that crossed the region just after day break. At 7 a.m. today, temperatures were mild at many locations, including 49 at Spokane International Airport, 51 at Felts Field, 50 at Pullman, 49 in Coeur d’Alene and 45 in Sandpoint.

Forecasters said the cold front that crossed Eastern Washington and North Idaho this morning was bringing strong wind gusts. The airport reported sustained winds at 28 mph and gusts to 32 mph about 1 p.m.

Gusts of 29 mph were reported at Felts Field and Coeur d’Alene Airport.

Lows in the lower 40s are expected tonight.

The chance of showers or thunderstorms continues through Tuesday when a high in the low 50s is expected, although Jones said the cold air may inhibit even reaching 50. The normal high for Tuesday in Spokane is 65.

Another Pacific system is expected on Wednesday and Thursday, but conditions by Friday should be improving with another nice weekend shaping up, according to computer forecast models.

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