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Updated forecast calling for 3-6 inches through tonight

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 24, 2014, 4:34 p.m.

The National Weather Service has updated its forecast late this afternoon for the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area and is now calling for 2 to 4 inches of new snow today and another 1 to 2 additional inches tonight in Spokane.

Forecasters this afternoon posted a winter weather advisory for the area, which will remain in effect until 10 p.m.

The advisory area was expanded late this afternoon to include all of Northeast Washington as well as Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, other parts of North Idaho and the Palouse region.

Some locales may see as much as 5 inches by tonight with another 1 to 3 inches before the storm winds down overnight, forecasters said.

At 4 p.m., the weather service reported 2.9 inches of new snow today. That is on top of the 3.1 inches measured on Sunday, bringing the two-day total to 6 inches so far.

Roadways, including Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 2, are turning icy with snow and slush. Traffic sensors on I-90 indicate vehicle speeds are mainly in the range of 30 to 40 mph, but some spots are even moving more slowly.

Minor drifting is occurring in some locales from north-northeast wind blowing at about 9 mph in Spokane and up to 15 mph near Post Falls.

Washington State Patrol troopers said this afternoon that they had responded to 60 collisions in the past 24 hours.

One of those accidents occurred on I-90 just west of downtown Spokane at milepost 279, which caused the left westbound lane to be blocked at 12:48 p.m.

A spinout was reported on the Thor-Ray hill in southeast Spokane at 4:50 p.m.

A semi-truck was blocking one of the northbound lanes of the Maple Street hill at Alice Avenue at 5:40 p.m.

The number of accidents being reported increased as rush hour started this evening.

Road crews were out in force clearing snow from main arterials and highways.

The snowy weather is being caused by a Pacific warm front that moved into the region from the southwest and is sending precipitation over the top of modified arctic air that’s flowing southward from Canada. The combination is a potent snow maker for the region.

The frontal boundary stalled its normal west to east progression, dropping increasing amounts of snow in a band running from Omak through Spokane and into the central Idaho Panhandle.

Cold air will kept today’s high below freezing with a low tonight of 22 in Spokane.

Stormy conditions are expected to subside by Tuesday when sunny skies and a high of 35 are forecast.

Temperatures should moderate through the week with highs in the upper 30s and lows in the lower 30s.

However, another shot of cold air is expected starting Friday night with highs over the weekend only making it to the middle 20s with lows in the teens. The cold is likely to be carried on blustery winds out of the north and northeast.

Snow pack continues to improve this month. The latest figures show that the Spokane River basin is at 100 percent of normal compared with 88 percent of normal on Jan. 14.

The best snows are in western Montana where the snow pack is at 130 to 144 percent of normal.

The North Cascades and North Central Washington have seen improvements. The Yakima River basin is now at 100 percent of normal, which is important for the agricultural economy there.

The southern Washington Cascades are at 82 percent of normal and the mountains around Mt. Hood in Oregon are at 75 percent of normal.

The storm track is expected to shift southward this week, and that will help mountain areas in Oregon and Northern California build on snow amounts that are much below normal.