A cold front moving south out of Canada is triggering rain and thunderstorms across far Northeast Washington and parts of North Idaho this afternoon, and a dust storm is forming along Interstate 90 near Moses Lake, officials said.
Wind gusts are expected to reach 25 mph this evening in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area, Palouse region and upper Columbia Basin around Moses Lake.
The Washington State Patrol said that dust is beginning to blow along I-90 about 20 miles east of Moses Lake, reducing visibility. Troopers said reduced visibility was becoming a problem on county roads in the upper Columbia Basin area, and conditions could worsen.
They asked motorists to drive carefully and to use headlights to increase the chances they will be seen by other drivers, and consider the use of emergency lights if warranted. Drivers should exit the freeway if conditions are too bad to proceed, and if that is not possible, pull off the shoulder as far as safely possible.
The wind has been gusting to about 22 mph in Moses Lake this afternoon.
Thunderstorm activity this afternoon was affecting the areas around Metaline, Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint and Priest River, and forecasters said the storms could reach as far south as Diamond Lake in southern Pend Oreille County and Hayden in Kootenai County.
As the storms migrate southeastward, they may reach the Silver Valley area of Shoshone County by 4 p.m. Wind gusts near the storms could reach 30 mph, forecasters said.
Today’s cold front is part of a cooling trend that will continue through the week with lows plummeting to the lower 20s by dawn Saturday.
Highs today were expected to reach the upper 50s to lower 60s across the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas under mostly sunny skies. However, snow was possible in the mountains from the line of thunderstorms this afternoon.
A change to wet autumn weather is seen on computer forecast models starting next week, around Tuesday or Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
Lows tonight will drop into the middle 20s and lower 30s with a chance of snow or rain in the counties to the north of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
Thursday’s highs should be in the upper 50s to about 60 with sunny skies again. Light winds switching to the west Thursday will signal the approach of another stronger cold front that was originating from the North Pole today, forecasters said.
Lows will again be cold overnight Thursday before the arrival of a moderate wind storm on Friday. While the weather should be sunny, highs may only reach the 40s across the Inland Northwest as the modified polar air moves into the region.
There is a chance that gusting winds in the Columbia Basin may kick up another dust storm following one that reduced visibility in the basin on Sunday and closed a segment of Interstate 90 for hours.
Sustained northeast winds from 5 to 15 mph on Friday could be accompanied by gusts to 25 mph, the National Weather Service said.
Lows by dawn on Saturday could drop to the lower 20s or colder in many locations. The forecasted lows are 22 in Spokane, 21 in Coeur d’Alene, 16 in Sandpoint and 23 in Pullman.
Those lows are cold enough to stop the change of color in autumn leaves and essentially kill the leaves by freezing them to trees. Such damage is most likely on tree tops and along more exposed flanks of larger deciduous trees and on the leaves of species that are susceptible to hard freezes, including dogwood.
The cold air this week has already caused records to fall. Pullman broke its record for the lowest temperature Oct. 6 with 23 degrees, which breaks the previous record of 27 in 1946.
At 7 a.m. today, freezing temperatures were again seen across the region. It was 32 at Felts Field, 35 at Spokane International Airport, 36 in Coeur d’Alene, 24 in Deer Park, 32 in Sandpoint and 29 in Pullman.