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Atmospheric River Promises Rain, Not Snow

Paige Browning
Spokane Public Radio

An atmospheric Christmas Grinch is lurking over the Inland Northwest. University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass says a strong atmospheric river is developing over Oregon, Washington and Idaho just in time for the weekend - but it'll be in form of rain, not snow.

Worse, according to Mass, there's a skimpy snowpack in place across the region.

Automated snow measuring stations called SnoTels report a bleak picture in the Cascades. At 11 ski areas, six have record low snow totals for December 15th - White Pass even reported no snow through the middle of the month.

The snow water equivalent is also far below normal. Measuring stations in the Columbia and Snake River basins report average water content in the sparse snow from about 75 percent all the way to to about 14 percent.

Here's how Mass put the problem: "We won't get all that much snow this week, and then that snow will be hit hard by heavy rain and warm temperatures, sorry."

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