Mostly sunny skies and a high of 39 degrees today are going to obscure a cold reality: winter snows are on the way.
National Weather Service forecasters said that colder air moving into the region today and tonight will set the stage for 1 to 2 inches of snowfall across a wide swath of the region Wednesday afternoon or evening.
They said the snow should arrive in time to make the evening commute a slippery mess.
The heaviest snow is expected in a wide band running from Colville to the mountains of the central Idaho Panhandle, including Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
Ski areas hoping to get started early should be pleased.
A winter storm watch for heavier snow has been issued for Stevens, Pend Oreille and northern Spokane counties in Washington and Bonner, Boundary and northern Kootenai counties of Idaho for 3 to 5 inches of snow in the valleys and up to 10 inches in the mountains.
Low elevation snow may melt off as warmer air accompanies the storm and works its way to lower elevations during the evening. Snow levels are expected to rise to 5,100 and precipitation should switch to all rain by 10 p.m. on Wednesday with the overnight low at 35. The high on Thursday should be 43 in Spokane.
The low pressure area is deep enough to kick up strong winds on Thursday similar to those last weekend. Gusts to 37 mph are possible in Spokane on Thursday.
The storm will allow another shot of cold air to filter into the region so that by Friday, the area will be poised for another storm with even more snow.
While the low is expected to move into Oregon and northern California, a band of precipitation is expected to migrate northward and set up over the Inland Northwest.
Forecasters said that storm could bring 2 to 4 inches, and may stick around since the high on Saturday might only reach 31. Areas beneath the center of the band could see the heaviest snow.
The entire Pacific Coast has been under a strong northwesterly flow that is combining ocean moisture with colder air from the north, allowing for the early onset of winter conditions.
At 7 a.m., it was 27 at Spokane International Airport.