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Spring starts tonight, but winter hangs on

Late snow in the mountains of the Inland Northwest shows how this year's winter has held its grip. (Bill Morlin)
Late snow in the mountains of the Inland Northwest shows how this year's winter has held its grip. (Bill Morlin)

Spring begins today at 10:14 p.m., but weather forecasters said that winter is not over yet. Snow is expected by the morning commute hours.

A new Pacific storm system is moving onshore later today and should arrive in the Inland Northwest later tonight and in the early morning hours. Wet, slushy snow is possible during the morning commute hours on Tuesday before precipitation changes to rain.

Up to a half inch of snow is possible before dawn with a low temperature of 31 degrees. The pre-dawn snow should be followed by less than an inch of snow in the early part of the day, National Weather Service forecasters said. Rain is expected after 11 a.m.

Wind gusts to 38 mph are possible on Tuesday. More snow and rain are likely through Wednesday night and lingering into Thursday and Friday. Highs should be in the 40s with lows in the 30s.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said it is expecting heavy snow in the mountain passes tonight.

Forecasters are calling for potentially heavy snow in the mountains of Northeast Washington and far North Idaho as well as the Okanogan highlands. A winter weather advisory was issued for those areas through 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The mid-week storm could bring a half inch of precipitation or more to the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas with more possible to the south of the region.

Later in the week, the parent low will become isolated from the main jet stream and meander over Oregon and Northern California, potentially sending some moisture northward through the weekend, but amounts will be light, forecasters said. Temperatures should warm to normal or slightly above normal, which is 50 degrees for a high this time of year.

The passing of Leap Day has pushed the timing of the equinox back to March 19, but only in the western U.S. and eastern Pacific region. Elsewhere, the vernal equinox occurs on March 20. The equinox marks the time when the plane of the tilt of the earth is perpendicular to the sun and is often described as the moment when the sun crosses the equator from south to north.