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Winter retreats to the mountains

January had fourth lowest snowfall on record

More mild winter weather is in store for the Inland Northwest today, but forecasters said they expect a break in the valley rain and mountain snow until tonight.

Snow levels will be about 3,000 feet tonight and Tuesday in mountains to the north of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene and 4,000 feet to the south.

A weak ridge of higher air pressure has moved into the region today, replacing the moderate weather disturbance that brought rain and snow to the region on Sunday.

Highs in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene should reach the lower 40s today with mostly cloudy skies.

Fog was reported in some locations this morning, including Yakima, Tri-Cities, Moses Lake and Lewiston.

Another minor storm system is expected to arrive tonight increasing the chance of lower elevation rain to 80 percent tonight and Tuesday.

Rain continues to be a threat on Wednesday night and again on Friday as a series of weak impulses moves onshore across the Pacific Northwest.

John Livingston, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said the mild weather is an outgrowth of El Nino warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, which has caused the main part of the winter storm track to move south of the region while pushing warmer air northward along the West Coast.

Highs are expected to remain in the 40s through the week with lows in the lower to middle 30s. The pattern may continue through next week, too, Livingston said. Freezing weather is not in the forecast for Spokane.

At 3 p.m., it was 44 at Spokane International Airport, 46 in downtown Spokane, 41 in Deer Park, 45 in Coeur d’Alene and 41 in Pullman.

The mild weather this winter brought only 1.4 inches of snowfall to Spokane in January compared with a normal of 12.5 inches for the month. However, precipitation was close to normal with 1.54 inches falling at the airport.

The average temperature in January was 7.8 degrees above normal, making last month the eighth warmest January in 130 years of record keeping in Spokane.

The snowfall amount was the fourth lowest on record.

Snowfall so far this season has been 12.8 inches compared with a normal by Feb. 1 of 33.8 inches.

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