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Midweek winter storm to bring snow and wind to Inland Northwest

National Weather Service, Spokane

A winter storm forecast to begin Tuesday night may bring eight to 12 inches of snow to much of the Inland Northwest.

In a Tuesday morning briefing, National Weather Service meteorologist Andy Brown said forecasters are slightly more confident in snowfall forecasts – and potential disruptions – than they were Monday.

“High confidence [of] very difficult travel conditions,” Brown said. “Local drifting snow is a possibility, but we have lower confidence in of that being of significant impact. And then downed branches. There’s lots of trees that still have their leaves on them. Low confidence of that, but we wanted to bring that up [as a possibility] as we start to accumulate heavier snow.”

The National Weather Service and the Washington Department of Transportation said travel conditions Wednesday would be hazardous. Motorists were advised to drive carefully and prepare for adverse road and weather conditions.

WSDOT’s eastern division said Tuesday its plow crews are getting ready for service tonight and tomorrow. The agency also recommended allowing for longer travel times if motorists choose to drive.

Brown said the most likely times for heavy accumulation will vary. Omak and Republic, for example, are likely to see their greatest snowfall late tonight. Colville, Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint will see heavier snow in the overnight hours. And Spokane will likely see its heaviest snow between 10:00 p.m. Tuesday and 10:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Strong breezes are expected Wednesday, especially in the Columbia Basin and on the Palouse.

“There might be a brief period where we’re seeing some localized blowing and drifting snow during that heaviest snow [Wednesday] morning,” Brown said. Blowing snow is most likely in an elongated area from Grand Coulee to Pullman.

Bands of light to moderate snow were expected to linger in parts of the area into Thursday, the Weather Service said. Areas of the central Idaho panhandle, such as St. Maries, may see their heaviest snowfall on Thursday.

A storm of this magnitude happens about every one to three years, Brown said.

“These kinds of storms are not very rare,” Brown said. “So it’s not uncommon, but it’s not frequent. It’s somewhere in the middle. This is kind of a typical heavy winter storm for the Inland Northwest.”

The region is forecast to remain in a cold, unsettled pattern through week’s end. Highs are forecast to stay in the 20s, with morning lows in the teens. Snow reappears in the forecast Friday night and Saturday morning. One to two inches of additional snow could fall.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for nearly twenty years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.