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Snow, bitter moving in

Wed., Feb. 23, 2011, midnight

Eight inches of snow is in the forecast for today and tonight in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

Winter storm warnings were issued for today through 4 p.m. Thursday for all of Eastern Washington north of Connell and most of North Idaho.

Temperatures could plunge to minus 2 degrees on Friday morning and minus 7 by Saturday morning. Daytime highs will only reach the teens.

Light north winds today will become progressively stronger and switch to the east. Gusts may peak at 26 mph tonight and Thursday.

Agricultural areas in the region could see blowing snow and reduced visibilities as a result.

Forecaster John Livingston of the National Weather Service in Spokane said it appears that a low-pressure area is going to form in the Columbia Basin along an arctic cold front and provide a strong mechanism for snow formation.

Exactly where that low establishes itself will determine where the deepest accumulations occur, he said.

During the briefing he gave the following snow forecasts: 8 inches in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, 8.5 inches in Sandpoint, 10.8 inches in St. Maries, 7.3 inches in Pullman and 5.8 inches in Colville.

Today’s storm arrives after heavy snow pounded parts of the region on Tuesday, including 15 inches in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and 6 inches in Moscow, Idaho, by early afternoon.

Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90 was closed Tuesday afternoon due to snow and spinout accidents. Snow was expected in the valleys west of the Cascades. Idaho State Police warned of impaired driving conditions near Bonners Ferry and St. Maries on Tuesday.

If the weather stacks up as forecast, this will be the strongest and coldest late-February winter storm since 1993, Livingston said. Lows that year got to minus 5 on Feb. 25 and 26, six days after 13 inches of snow fell in the region.

The wind chill feeling on exposed skin may run from minus 5 to minus 25 tonight and Thursday, Livingston said.

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