Wednesday’s snowstorm caused accidents across the region as road conditions worsened for the evening commute, but the snow was expected to change to rain by Thursday morning.
By Wednesday evening all three east-west mountain passes over the Cascades were closed and not expected to reopen until at least Thursday morning. The Washington State Patrol reported an avalanche over the road in Stevens Pass and a high avalanche danger in Snoqualmie Pass.
Mountain areas, adjacent mountain valleys and the heart of the Columbia Basin will see a longer period of snow and possible freezing rain.
Traffic was moving Wednesday afternoon in the Spokane area, but some accidents were already occurring, including a collision on Interstate 90 at Liberty Lake just before noon. Later, an accident occurred on Saltese Road.
A vehicle and logging truck collided on state Highway 20 in Ferry County.
Grant County reported a county sanding truck was involved in a collision with a vehicle.
During the evening commute, the number of accidents continued to grow. Mount Vernon Street in the vicinity of 14th and 16th avenues was blocked by a number of vehicles.
In Lewiston, a twin engine airplane slid off the runway Wednesday afternoon.
Some Spokane transit buses were late by up to 20 minutes.
Spokane International Airport reported some delays on arrivals and departures starting early in the evening.
The city of Spokane has declared a stage 1 snow plow event, which means that residents living on bus routes and emergency routes should move vehicles off the streets. On residential hills, residents are asked to move vehicles to the odd side of the street.
The National Weather Service reported 3 inches of new snow at the airport at 3 p.m.
Forecasters were calling for an additional inch of snow in Spokane before the precipitation shifted to rain.
Rain and snow could be heavy at times Wednesday night and early Thursday when the low goes to 33.
Spokane and Coeur d’Alene could see brief periods when freezing rain is in the mix of precipitation, but forecasters said it is not likely to be major problem in those areas.
The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas are under a winter weather advisory through 4 p.m. Thursday. A large part of the region is under a flood watch from Wednesday night through Saturday morning from Athol and Deer Park southward into Northeast Oregon.
Highs on Thursday should reach the low 40s when a quarter to a half inch of rain is possible in Spokane. Highs will also reach the 40s on Friday.
Gusty winds are expected Thursday night when some additional snow showers are possible.
In the mountains and adjacent valleys, heavy amounts of snow are expected. A winter storm warning is in effect for those areas.
The Palouse River at Potlatch is expected to crest on Friday a notch below flood stage.
Ice jams along creeks and streams could become a problem in triggering flooding outside the main channels or in downstream bursts of water. Ice can stack up along roadways and against structures, including levees.
Spokane should see about 0.75 inches of precipitation and Coeur d’Alene could seen an inch from rain and the water equivalent in the snow, which raises flooding concerns for urban streets.
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