Massive snow storm approaches the Inland Northwest: 'Unusual and fairly historic' conditions expected for some areas

<p><p>Most of the heavy snow expected in Eastern Washington and North Idaho should have fallen by the time residents wake up Thursday, making for a difficult morning commute and potential school closures.</p></p><p><p>Steven Van Horn, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Spokane, said another 2 to 3 inches of fresh snow was possible through the rest of Thursday morning and early afternoon.</p></p><p><p>Van Horn said the snow is expected to transition to rain and freezing rain Thursday afternoon and evening, which could make roads icy.</p></p><p><p>The National Weather Service’s winter storm warning is in effect until 4 p.m. Thursday, from the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas down to the Palouse.</p></p><p><p>“This is just one of those storms that you can expect each winter you’re going to get some heavy accumulations,” Van Horn said.</p></p><p><p>Meanwhile, the ample snowfall expected in Central Washington, including the Cascade Range, will create “quite treacherous” driving conditions, he said.</p></p><p><p>“In fact, I would be surprised if the passes actually stay open, just because of how much snowfall is expected there,” Van Horn said.</p></p><p><p>The Washington State Department of Transportation said on Twitter drivers might want to reconsider traveling Thursday. It said Washington State University students, who start the semester Monday in Pullman, should consider delaying travel until the weekend.</p></p><p><p>Van Horn said up to 3 feet of snow was possible for Stevens and Snoqualmie passes from roughly 5 p.m. Wednesday until 5 p.m. Thursday. Similar to Eastern Washington, Van Horn said most of that snow will fall through Thursday morning and perhaps the afternoon, before the temperatures warm up and turn the snow to rain.</p></p><p><p>“The heaviest snowfall is going to be across central Washington, where places could receive a foot or more of snow, in the Cascades especially,” said Laurie Nisbet, meteorologist at the NWS Spokane.</p></p><p><p>Leavenworth is forecast to get 2 feet of snow, with Wenatchee expected to receive 15 inches. Even Moses Lake, where significant snowfall is rare, is forecast to get 4 inches, Nisbet said. Sandpoint is forecast to get 14 inches by late Friday.</p></p><p><p>“Those areas are going to be getting hit a lot harder, and it’s going to be … quite unusual and fairly historic, at least for those locations,” Van Horn said.</p></p><p><p>For some areas, the storm could be a top-10 event in recorded history, said Andy Brown with NWS Spokane in a briefing on the storm.</p></p><p><p>Travel conditions in some areas will be very difficult or impossible, especially over mountain passes, Brown warned.</p></p><p><p><span class=”print_trim”><!–[teaser id=987579]–></span></p></p><p><p>Both the city of Spokane and the county said they are preparing for the storm with plows and deicers targeting primary arterials and emergency routes first before moving on to residential areas.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Public Schools said in a tweet that they would work with Durham Bus Services, the company that manages the district’s school busses, and alert families to any cancellations or delays by 6 a.m.</p></p><p><p>Roads remained slick Wednesday, and numerous collisions were evidence of the dangerous conditions, the Washington State Patrol said on Twitter. In one incident, an armored vehicle driving through black ice and snow rolled over on Interstate 90 Wednesday morning, WSP said.</p></p><p><p>Between 1½ and 3 inches of snow fell in the region overnight Wednesday, Nisbet said.</p></p><p><p>The snow caused a two-hour delay at the Medical Lake School District.</p></p><p><p>Heavier bands of snow passed over northern Spokane County, dropping about 3 inches of snow on Deer Park and Chattaroy.</p></p><p><p>While both Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes were open Wednesday, the <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Washington State Department of Transportation</a> warned of snow and ice on the road.</p></p><p><!–[photoset id=11675]–></p><p><p>Strong winds, with gusts reaching as high as 40 mph, will move into the area Friday, Van Horn said.</p></p><p><p>“There could be tree damage from the heavier snow and then the winds,” Nisbet said.</p></p><p><p>Along with the strong winds will be warmer temperatures, with a high Friday of 43 degrees.</p></p><p><p>Snow will become heavy and wet, compacting or turning into puddles, Nisbet said.</p></p><p><p>“It’s probably going to be a sloppy mess by Friday afternoon,” Nisbet said.</p></p><p><p>That mess will freeze Friday night, with the low temperature forecast at 24 degrees.</p></p><p><p>“Stay home if you can,” Nisbet said. “If you don’t need to travel, don’t travel.”</p></p><p><p>As snow plows and deicers work to clear the roads, snowfall is expected to taper off completely Saturday, Nisbet said.</p></p><p><p>High temperatures Saturday and Sunday are forecast to be in the low 30s, with lows in the teens.</p></p><p><p>On Sunday, the forecast shows the first dry day in about a week, Nisbet said.</p></p><p><p><em>S-R reporter Garrett Cabeza contributed to this report.</em></p></p>