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Regional deep freeze will likely last for days

Arctic mass brings single-digit nights

An arctic blast Thursday replaced Wednesday’s crushing snowstorm, leaving the Inland Northwest in a deep freeze expected to continue over the weekend as temperatures dip below zero.

Thursday’s daytime high in Spokane was a chilly 23 degrees. Thursday night’s forecasted low was minus 1, with a wind chill factor of minus 10.

The low pressure system that created the band of snow that stalled over the region earlier in the week moved to the southeast, leaving the region shivering under a cold northerly flow.

The daytime high today is expected to reach just 17 degrees, with a wind chill factor as low as minus 11. Overnight lows are expected to drop to 2 degrees, with a wind chill factor of minus 5.

The first day of the new year will see a high of 22 and a low around 13. The daytime wind chill factor could make it feel like minus 4.

The arctic air spilling into the region is not as intense as the cold outbreak that occurred before Thanksgiving.

However, snow on the ground and clear skies will allow nighttime temperatures to fall to zero degrees or colder for the next two nights. Snow could return midweek.

Today and Saturday will be mostly sunny. Clouds will likely roll in Saturday night.

Several warming centers have been activated in the region so homeless people can temporarily get out of the cold and get a warm cup of coffee.

By the time Wednesday’s stubborn storm subsided, six to 10 inches of snow had fallen across the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas. If that snow becomes compact and freezes over, it could make for some seriously slick roads.

The combination of impaired drivers and potentially icy roads might make New Year’s Eve travel dangerous, said Sgt. Kris Schweigert with the Washington State Patrol.

As temperatures plummet, Schweigert reminds drivers that many winter accidents occur when drivers follow too closely.

“The following distance between vehicles is critical,” he said. “We ask that people back off and follow from a greater distance.”

Slippery roads aren’t all drivers have to worry about: “The addition of impaired drivers out there makes it more dangerous,” he said.

Schweigert said law enforcement will be out in full force tonight.

“It’s definitely one of our biggest nights of the year,” he said. “It’s a priority coverage sort of a night.”

He advised people to take some time to plan ahead before partying.

“If they can arrange a sober driver ahead of time, that’s definitely the way to go,” he said. “That’s the key: thinking ahead.”

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