As parts of coastal Washington are drenched with up to 10 inches of rain and multiple feet of snow in high elevations, the Inland Northwest is up against potential 55-mph winds Wednesday.
Jon Fox, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the last time Spokane topped 50-mph winds was Oct. 13.
That windstorm caused more than 10,500 households to lose power as trees crashed down and power lines snapped. In Spokane County, about 1 in 10 Inland Power customers experienced a power outage.
A level five atmospheric river – a mass of warmer, moist air – will bring the downpour in Western Washington. As it passes over the Cascades, Eastern Washington and North Idaho were predicted to get roughly half an inch of rain, Fox said.
On the back end of that wet air will come cooler, dryer air, and that’s when the winds will begin.
“The stronger difference in air masses, the stronger the winds,” Fox said.
Meteorologists predict the most intense winds will blow at around 40 to 50 mph between 2 and 8 a.m. Wednesday and could be strong enough to topple some trees and make driving difficult, Fox said. Gusts could reach 55 mph, according to a warning from the National Weather Service.
“It is a windstorm, but nowhere near the one we had in 2015,” Fox said. “Could the forecast change? Yeah, but I don’t think it’s going to be that strong.”
During the 2015 windstorm, wind gusts peaked at 71 mph – just below hurricane speed of 75. More than 250,000 households lost power in the Inland Northwest as a result.
Fox said winds on Wednesday will have speeds predicted to hover around 30 to 40 mph around noon. By sunset, Fox said to expect winds to slow down to around 15 to 25 mph.
The National Weather Service also posted a minor flood warning as meteorologists predicted rainfall and snowmelt could combine overnight and affect low elevation areas while rivers rise.
The Kootenai County Office of Emergency Management issued a statement warning of possible rockslides and field flooding on top of possible power outages.
Winds will be stronger at higher elevations, Fox said, including for some of Coeur d’Alene.
The Office of Emergency Management recommended travelers pack an emergency kit in their cars with food, water and blankets, and keep a full tank of gas. People should check to see if they have an alternate heat source, like a generator or fireplace, in case of power outages, the office said.
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