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Valley rain tonight; then all snow and cold

The next in a series of winter storms is going to bring rain to lower elevations and up to a foot or more of snow to the mountains of the Inland Northwest tonight, but an arctic flow is looking more likely this weekend through Wednesday, forecasters said today.

The latest computer forecast models are showing that only small amounts of snow - an inch or less - are likely in the Spokane area, but an arctic front over the weekend will grip the Inland Northwest in the deep freeze Monday through Wednesday.

Lows could reach 7 in Spokane and below zero elsewhere Monday night, with the extent of the cold hinging on how much snow covering, clouds and wind are present. Highs of 20 on Monday and 12 on Tuesday are currently being forecast.

But first, the storm moving onshore from the coast of British Columbia tonight will draw ample precipitation ahead of it overnight and bring wind gusts to 23 mph, well below the high winds seen on Tuesday morning.

After the cold front passes early Thursday, the region should see a steady cooling as an overhead low pressure area opens the door to a more northerly flow and snow accumulations at all elevations.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for the east slopes of the Cascades in north-central Washington and the mountain areas of Northeast Washington and North Idaho north of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

A hazardous weather outlook is in effect for other portions of the Inland Northwest.

Snow depths are likely to be light in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas, and should arrive in the form of shower activity on Thursday night or Friday and again possibly on Saturday night and Sunday. But some locales such as the east slopes of the Cascades could see enough snow to cause some problems with traffic and snow removal, forecasters said.

Areas near Lewiston and in southeast Washington could also see greater amounts.

A frigid arctic air mass may then push across the Canadian border later this weekend and early next week, raising early concerns about travel conditions over the holiday weekend.

Highs today should reach the middle 40s with lows in the middle and upper 30s tonight.

Lows by Monday night may reach single digits.

Tags: snow, weather