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Winter storm set to blanket Spokane on Thursday with 3 to 7 inches of snow

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 27, 2017, 9:27 p.m.

FILE - A City of Spokane snow plow removes snow from South Jefferson Street on Spokane’s South Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - A City of Spokane snow plow removes snow from South Jefferson Street on Spokane’s South Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane region is due for another wet, white shellacking – just in time for New Year’s weekend.

The National Weather Service is predicting anywhere from 3 to 7 inches of snowfall Thursday in Spokane – slightly downgrading earlier predictions that estimated as much as 10 inches could fall – with either more snow or rain to follow Friday. Farther east, forecasters expect snow to fall harder and longer in areas of North Idaho, which could see 5 to 9 inches in Coeur d’Alene and 6 to 10 inches in Sandpoint.

The mountains ringing the Columbia Basin, including Mount Spokane and mountain passes, will see heavy snow as well, anywhere from 8 to 12 inches.

“We’re confident it’s going to snow on Thursday in Spokane,” said Jeremy Wolf, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “There also could be briefly some freezing rain as well.”

Snow is expected to begin falling around commute time Thursday morning and continue throughout the day. Temperatures will sit well below freezing, with highs in the upper 20s. Snow could fall again Thursday night.

Then Friday, another moist Pacific storm will roll in, though Wolf said it’s possible the storm could bring rain instead as temperatures are expected to rise to just above freezing.

Gary Kaesemeyer, Spokane’s streets director, said crews would be ready to plow at first snowfall. They’re currently in the process of plowing residential streets after Christmas morning on Monday saw about an inch of snowfall by 8 a.m., followed by frigid temperatures. More snow fell Tuesday, though it was less than a half-inch in places.

“We’re kind of taking all of these weather reports in and gearing up all the equipment to go,” Kaesemeyer said Wednesday. “We’ll likely be calling in a good percentage of the Water Department’s crews to help plow.”

So far this year, the Spokane area has experienced 20.9 inches of snowfall, according to a recording at the Spokane International Airport. That puts us right about average, which is normally 20 inches by the end of December.

The record for snowfall by December’s end was set in 1996, when more than 50 inches of snow covered Spokane. Last year, 20.5 inches of snow had fallen by Dec. 28.

To prepare for the inevitable traffic headache, Kaesemeyer said crews will focus on primary routes first, then move to major arterials and hospital access. After that, hills and roads near schools. Residential areas will follow.

Spokane completed a full-city plow early last week, when a heavy snowstorm rolled in on Dec. 15, contributing to multiple crashes and snarled roadways. About 7 inches fell that day.

With more snow to come, accompanied by colder temperatures, Kaesemeyer said crews would be working 24-hour shifts to keep roadways clear.

“It’s an all-hands operation,” he said.