Winter – barely seven days old, according to the calendar – is making a powerful return to the region this week.
Snow, possibly heavy at times into Wednesday, will be followed by a blast of arctic air from Canada to keep the New Year’s bubbly plenty cold.
The low on Friday morning may only reach the single digits in Spokane.
But first, the region is going to see a double-barreled shot of snow this morning and again tonight.
“The big story is the return of winter,” said forecaster Matt Fugazzi of the National Weather Service in Spokane.
A winter weather advisory was posted for this morning across the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas as well as for the upper Columbia Basin and Okanogan region through 10 a.m. A more severe winter storm warning was posted for the mountainous counties of Northeast Washington and North Idaho.
Through this morning, the Weather Service expects snowfall of 3.6 inches in Spokane, 5.7 inches in Coeur d’Alene, 5.1 inches in Deer Park, 7.1 inches in Sandpoint, 3.3 inches in Colville, 2.2 inches in Pullman and 1.5 inches in Ritzville.
Areas to the south of Interstate 90 could see a mix of snow and rain. In Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, the precipitation should change to rain or a rain-snow mix at midday, when highs of 39 are expected in Spokane and 35 in Coeur d’Alene.
A second shot of winter tonight and early Wednesday could bring the heaviest snowfall of the season to some locales, Fugazzi said.
“This is going to have some consequences,” he said.
And as the snowfall subsides at midday Wednesday, gusty winds are forecast across the Palouse and northward into Spokane. The winds should be strong enough in the Palouse to cause blowing snow and some drifting conditions.
Wind gusts could reach 32 mph in Pullman and about 25 mph in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
Snowfall amounts from the second stage of the storm are predicted to reach 6.6 inches in Spokane, 8.1 inches in Coeur d’Alene, 6.3 inches in Sandpoint, 7.8 inches in Pullman and 3.6 inches in Ritzville.
If the predicted amounts are accurate, Spokane could see 10 inches of snow by midday Wednesday. Coeur d’Alene might see more than 13 inches.
Spokane had 7.5 inches of snow on Nov. 22, and for the season, the city has seen 33.3 inches at Spokane International Airport.
After the snow ends, the region should see an invasion of cold arctic air with lows Friday morning of 5 degrees in Spokane, minus 2 in Coeur d’Alene and minus 3 in Sandpoint. Highs on Friday will struggle to get to the teens.
The cold is expected to linger through Sunday.
The new round of winter comes after an unusual occurrence of thunder snow in Spokane from a storm that passed over the city quickly on Sunday afternoon. A short-lived electrical storm from the same system was also reported at Mount Spokane on Sunday.