Wind, blowing dust in the Columbia Basin and potentially damaging cold are expected today across the Inland Northwest as a polar front sweeps into the region and hangs around through Monday, the National Weather Service said.
Gusty winds today are likely to be followed by record lows in the upper teens and lower 20s tonight and Saturday night.
Highs today may only reach the lower to middle 40s in a cool-down that will arrive behind the cold front, which would set records for the coldest maximum temperatures for today. Some forecasts called for a high of 50.
“The cold air is just going to gradually deepen,” forecaster Kerry Jones said.
A change in weather Monday night and Tuesday could bring early snow as a moist and milder system moves in from the Pacific Ocean on top of the cold air on the ground, forecasters said.
On Thursday, the weather service issued:
A hazardous weather outlook for winds today and freezing weather through Sunday.
A dust storm warning for the upper Columbia Basin through 11 a.m.
A blowing dust advisory for south-central Washington from Ellensburg to Walla Walla through 2 p.m.
A winter weather advisory for the central Idaho Panhandle mountains and Western Montana through 7 p.m.
A freeze warning was in effect as well.
Snow has already fallen this week at the region’s ski resorts, including Silver Mountain Resort east of Coeur d’Alene, Schweitzer Mountain Resort near Sandpoint and 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort near Chewelah.
Forecasters said wind speeds were likely to stay below the levels seen Sunday, when a section of Interstate 90 west of Ritzville was closed most of the day because of blowing dust.
The cold front was expected to reach a line from Coeur d’Alene to Ritzville and Moses Lake about 2 a.m. today.
Record lows tonight could reach 19 or 20 degrees in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas, with the coldest temperatures coming just before dawn Saturday. A reinforcing front later Saturday will keep the cold air in place through Sunday into Monday.
In Spokane, the weather service’s forecast for today calls for a high of 43. The record low maximum is 45 for the day. Early Saturday, the forecasted low of 19 would break the previous record of 25. That pattern should repeat itself for Saturday and Saturday night.
The cold weather could be trouble for sprinkler systems that have not been drained or blown out. Especially vulnerable are the pressure vacuum breaker at the front ends of systems that work as anti-siphons, said Jack Bornstein at Auto Rain, 110 E. Pacific Ave.
He recommended that homeowners insulate the breakers during the freezing weather if the system is still filled with water. Other valves and pipes should be able to withstand the October cold but will need to be drained or blown out prior to colder winter weather, he said.