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Big changes could be coming to Northwest weather this weekend

Courtesy of National Weather Service
The weather service is forecasting three scenarios for the Inland Northwest for the next seven days, from normal winter-like conditions to something more extreme.

But the latest models show the weather may not be as extreme as initially thought.

Much colder-than-normal temperatures and heavy snow may be headed to the Inland Northwest late this weekend and into next week…or maybe not.

Weather forecasters in the Inland Northwest are looking for more certainty in a forecast that promises big change.

Andy Brown from the National Weather Service said in a briefing on Wednesday that the models show a wide variety of possibilities.

“This is a tough one. We’ve been looking at what was likely going to be a very cold Arctic outbreak that was going to impact the region late this weekend through next week and the models continue to change on us. Now the bullet point here is nearly equal potential for three scenarios to play out late this weekend through early next week,” Brown said.

Those scenarios range from near normal temperatures and light snow to heavy snow and night time temperatures well below zero.

Brown referred to weather apps that have been warning about overnight lows that could plunge into record territory.

“We were seeing that some of the apps on phones were highlighting low temperatures on Thursday of -24 degrees, something like that. That was starting to get around and make buzz on social media, that it’s going to be negative 24 next week. And, yes, there’s a potential for being that cold, but is it a realistic potential? I’m not so sure,” he said.

Since Brown made that statement on Wednesday, the National Weather Service has moderated the temperatures in its forecasts.

For Thursday through Saturday, the weather is expected to remain status quo, with fog in late night and early morning hours in many places, including Spokane. There’s a change of freezing drizzle or light snow flurries. Highs will range from the mid 20s to the lower 30s, lows in the teens and 20s, single digits in the northern tier of Washington.

Then the big changes come. A front from the Arctic will bring colder than normal temperatures and the possibility of more snow, though how cold and how much snow and where are still open questions. The variables: how far south will the cold air go before it slows down and parks itself?

Forecasters say the current model shows the front will begin entering the region Saturday night with heavy snow falling in the extreme north Idaho panhandle and north Cascades on Sunday. The I-90 corridor in eastern Washington and north Idaho and Stevens Pass will get snow on Monday. The front will continue to move south on Tuesday.

The weather service says it’s difficult to guess how much snow each area will receive. The latest models estimate 4-7” for Spokane, 7-11” for Sandpoint, 3-6” for Pullman, 2-4” for Lewiston, less in the Columbia Basin, Waterville Plateau and Wenatchee areas. Mountain passes such as Lookout and Stevens could receive as much as two feet of snow.

As for the cold, forecasters say there’s a decreasing chance of below zero temperatures. The coldest nights will be Tuesday night-Wednesday and Wednesday night-Thursday. After Thursday, there’s the likelihood of warmer weather and more precipitation.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.