A new weather system crossing the Inland Northwest may bring 1 to 2 inches of snow today before moderating Pacific air turns the precipitation to rain by Tuesday.
National Weather Service forecasters this morning said snow was heavy in some locales in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas before it tapered off early this afternoon. Downtown Spokane saw about 3 inches of new snow from a fast-moving warm front.
Another 1 to 2 inches of snow is possible tonight as a second warm front arrives over the region, forecasters said.
The city of Spokane declared a stage 1 snow event, meaning that it will clear all arterials, emergency routes, hospital districts, bus routes and hilly residential streets.
Spokane Valley arterials and hilly areas are also being plowed.
Law enforcement agencies were receiving several reports of collisions caused by icy conditions, but light traffic was moving well on major routes. However, some drivers were stalling on the steep Monroe Street Hill south of Fourth Avenue.
A winter weather advisory for heavier snow amounts is in effect for far North Idaho, Northeast Washington and the central Panhandle mountains until 4 p.m.
The weather service said the transition to rain on Tuesday in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas should start off with snow in the morning and then rain possibly mixed with snow in the afternoon.
The storm becomes all rain with precipitation amounts in the quarter to half inch range on Tuesday night with the arrival of a third warm front. Yet another rain storm is expected Thursday night and Friday.
Temperatures will moderate from the arctic cold of the past week.
With two rain storms in the forecast, the Weather Service today issued a flood watch for Spokane, Lincoln, Whitman, Asotin and Garfield counties in Washington and Kootenai, Benewah, Latah, Nex Perce and Lewis counties in Idaho.
The watch is in effect from Tuesday evening through Friday evening.
As much as three-quarters of an inch of rain is expected to be followed by three more storms at the end of the week bringing possibly another inch of rain on Friday into Monday. The mountains could see up to 4 inches of precipitation.
Forecasters said they expect water to pool up in low-lying areas and along urban streets. Frozen ground will prevent water from soaking into the soil, causing it instead to drain away.
A winter storm watch is going into effect for Tuesday night and Wednesday for elevations above 4,000 feet where precipitation will be falling as snow.
A high today of 32 will be followed by moderating temperatures in the middle and upper 30s to the low 40s by the end of the week.
Lows will go from the upper 20s tonight to the lower 30s starting Tuesday night.
Spokane has not been above 32 degrees for 25 days, the eighth longest spell of freezing weather since record keeping began in 1881.
The upper level jet stream has shifted direction, bringing moisture from the Pacific Ocean onshore to replace the bitter cold of last week.
Snow is expected until Wednesday in areas to the north of Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.