Spokane will get a taste of the especially cold and snowy winter ahead starting Friday.
The National Weather Service released an early winter storm warning Wednesday. Inches of snow will make driving dangerous and could tear down tree limbs, leading to possible power outages.
Higher elevations including the South Hill should see 3 to 6 inches, said Steve Bodnar, National Weather Service meteorologist in Spokane. Lower elevation areas like downtown can expect one to three inches of snow buildup starting Friday afternoon and continuing into the night.
The snow storm reminded Bodnar of last year’s October surprise: a flurry that snapped branches in the middle of the night, cut power to tens of thousands of homes and forced Spokane Public Schools to declare a snow day.
This year’s snowstorm is predicted to create very similar conditions.
Foliage still on the trees could collect more snow while very little wind during the snowiest period Friday means snow has an even better chance of sticking to branches rather than blowing away, Bodnar said.
To protect tree branches, it can help to go out with a long pole and lightly tap the ends of branches to release snow, said Pat Munts, the small farms and urban agriculture coordinator for Washington State University Spokane County extension office.
Travelers Friday can expect thick snow in passes. Lookout and Stevens Pass could see 8 to 10 inches, while Snoqualmie pass should see between 6 and 10, he said.
Right after the snow, winds blowing at 15 to 25 mph will come through after the snow, but Bodnar sees a “strong possibility” snow will still be on the ground Saturday morning. Cold overnight temperatures will freeze any moisture on the ground, leading to risky road conditions, he said.
After that, Spokane will dip drastically into cold temperatures. Saturday, Sunday and Monday, meteorologists predict lows in the teens and possibly single digits, Bodnar said.
Wind chills should be in the single digits Saturday. Highs will be in the low thirties until Tuesday when a “slow warm up” begins, creeping up into the high thirties and low forties.
The bitter cold could disrupt leaves as they change their fall hues, Munts said, so Spokane can expect a less colorful fall after the frost.
Sprinkler blowouts are in high demand ahead of the cold temperatures, so it might be too late to schedule one, said Tom Bro at T and B Sprinklers.
Bro recommends people wrap up the pipes that lead out of their house in a blanket and tape them up to provide some insulation. Underground should retain some heat, he said, until more permanent cold temperatures come to Spokane.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its winter outlook for the United States last week. While most of the country can expect a winter that’s warmer than average, the Inland Northwest will probably be colder and wetter than usual.
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