November 9, 2010 in City

Gearing up for winter – and just in time

Regional snow possible over the next few days
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Austin Ford, an employee with Poor Boys Tire and Automotive at 2501 N. Division St., installs snow tires on a car Monday. “It’s the calm before the storm,” said manager Scott Masingale, who said a lot of customers wait for the first snow to fall before making the switch to winter tires.
(Full-size photo)

By the numbers

2,000 feet: Expected snow level this morning and Wednesday morning

2 inches: Amount of new snow reported Monday at 49 Degrees North ski area

30 degrees: Expected low temperature tonight

With colder autumn weather settling over the Inland Northwest, National Weather Service forecasters said there is an increasing possibility of snow falling in the lowlands this week.

However, little if any accumulation is expected in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas this morning and Wednesday morning, even with snow levels expected to drop to about 2,000 feet during predawn hours both days.

Accumulations of snow are possible on the east slopes of the Cascades near Wenatchee, with Snoqualmie Pass likely to see several inches of snow today through Wednesday. Waterville in Douglas County may see 2 inches of snow.

The Camas Prairie area near Lewiston could also see snow as low as 3,000 feet today.

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook for those locales because of the snow threat.

In Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, forecasters are calling for a 30 percent chance of light rain through this evening.

Highs this week are likely to reach the lower to middle 40s with lows near 30 each night.

Another storm system Friday night or Saturday has greater potential for bringing light amounts of snow to the region, said forecaster John Livingston.

“It is a possibility this could be the first time we see snowflakes in the Spokane area,” he said of a Saturday system showing up on computer forecast models.

Less than an inch is possible on Saturday, although forecasters on Monday were giving the chances of precipitation at 20 percent on Saturday and Sunday, an indication that they have low confidence in the outlook for snow over the weekend.

A cold front that crossed the area on Sunday dropped snow levels in the mountains. Ski areas reported a few inches of new snow, but not enough to allow early openings.

Schweitzer ski area near Sandpoint reported an inch of new snow overnight with temperatures cold enough to run its snow-making machines at mid-mountain. At 49 Degrees North near Chewelah, the resort’s website reported 2 new inches of snow and a 5-inch depth at the lodge.

Traffic cameras around the region showed light snow in Metaline Falls and at Sherman Pass, on state Highway 20 between Kettle Falls and Republic.

Fourth of July and Look-out passes on Interstate 90 in Idaho were bare, as was Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 in Washington on Monday.

Cool and dry conditions are likely next week, according to the weather service.

Forecasters have said that a La Niña cooling of water in the tropical Pacific Ocean in recent months could result in greater snowfall this winter.

La Niña conditions from late 2007 through early 2008 brought near-record snowfall of 92.6 inches at Spokane International Airport. Colder ocean conditions continued during the 2008-’09 winter, when Spokane saw a record 97.7 inches of snow at the airport.

Last year, an El Niño warming in the tropics resulted in the lowlands of the Inland Northwest receiving mostly rain. Only 13.7 inches of snow fell at the airport last winter, the third-lowest on record in Spokane and the lowest amount since record-keeping moved to the airport in 1947.

“We are certainly going to have more snow than we had last winter,” Livingston said.

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