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Holiday travel prospects not too bad

Tue., Dec. 21, 2010, 7:45 a.m.

An easing in snowfall over the Inland Northwest is seen through Christmas Day, although a shot of light snow is likely Wednesday night.

National Weather Service forecasters said a complicated weather pattern will be considerably less stormy than the region has seen over the past month or so.

Today, patchy fog is possible before 10 a.m., and then mostly cloudy skies will yield a high of 34 with a low tonight of 23 in Spokane and virtually the same temperatures in Coeur d’Alene.

A weak warm front crossed into the region this morning and has created milder conditions compared with Monday morning.

Patchy fog is possible after 4 a.m. on Wednesday until about 10 a.m.

Wednesday highs could reach 37 in Coeur d’Alene and 35 in Spokane under cloudy skies, helping melt off accumulated snow and ice.

Less than a half inch of snow is possible Wednesday night with only slight chances of snow under a marginally more stable air mass on Thursday. That should help travelers on roads.

Highs should reach the middle and upper 30s Thursday.

Partly sunny skies are likely on Friday at 38 degrees in Spokane and there is a 20 percent chance of light snow on Christmas Day.

Forecasters said no serious storms are expected so that travel in the Inland Northwest should be relatively good for this time of year.

However, Pacific storm energy is being directed into the Cascades during coming days, so cross-mountain travel could be hampered by snow at higher elevations. Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90 should see snow through Friday night, and then rain or snow on Christmas Day, with mid-day highs above freezing until Sunday when the high drops back to 30.

As always in the winter, it’s best to check the latest forecast and embark during expected breaks from precipitation or fog events. Mid-day travel typically offers the safest conditions, especially when climbing over mountain passes.

Rain is possible at lower elevations on Christmas night as a milder Pacific warm front reaches the Inland Northwest. Rain or snow are in the forecast for return travel on Sunday.

A snow level of 2,400 feet is expected by Saturday night with a low near freezing. Sunday should see 36 in Spokane.

At 7 a.m. today, it was 29 at Spokane International Airport, 30 at Felts Field, 27 in Coeur d’Alene, 31 in Deer Park and 32 in Pullman.

Tags: weather

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