Forecasters: As much as 12 inches of new snow could fall in Spokane area

February 12, 2019

Light snow has started falling once again in Spokane, with up to an additional foot expected in some parts of the region through the end of Tuesday.

Snow had stopped falling around Spokane on Monday morning after 3 1/2 inches fell at Spokane International Airport overnight. Forecasters predict precipitation will once again start falling around the 2 p.m. hour in southern portions of Spokane County, with a fresh round of snow hitting the metro area right around the beginning of the Monday evening commute.

“It’s not really until Wednesday, afternoon to later evening, that the threat shifts farther south of the Spokane area,” said Jeffrey Cote, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane.

The overnight snow delayed classes at Spokane Public Schools and shuttered several area universities Monday.

Spokane Public Schools started two hours late on Monday, and morning activities were canceled. Other Spokane County districts that delayed the start of classes on Monday by two hours were Central Valley, Cheney, Deer Park, Freeman, Liberty, Mead, Medical Lake, Nine Mile Falls, Orchard Prairie and West Valley. The Great Northern and Reardan-Edwall school districts are closed. Many other districts in North Idaho and Eastern Washington have delayed or canceled classes.

The late start in Spokane allowed city plows to make a second pass around schools, said Gary Kaesemeyer, director of the city’s streets department. The city announced Monday it was restarting its full city plow that began Friday evening.

“It really helps out. It really helps out with not only the buses, but parents who are parked around the schools, too,” Kaesemeyer said of the late start.

Monday was the first morning the school district instituted a delayed start after bringing the practice back last year, said Brian Coddington, a spokesman for the school district. Officials began discussions Sunday night whether to cancel or delay class start times and drivers monitored sidewalk and road conditions overnight.

“Our commitment is to let families know by 6 o’clock, but that process started much much earlier this morning, and will again tomorrow morning,” Coddington said.

The district weighs safety along with the need to provide a warm place and meals for students, said Coddington. If classes were canceled, the district has two built-in snow days left during the school year. After that students would be required to attend classes into the summer vacation.

Washington State University in Pullman and Eastern Washington University canceled classes and WSU-Spokane announced a two-hour delay. Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College delayed classes until 10:30 a.m.

Classes were held as scheduled at Gonzaga University, according to a campus announcement at 10 a.m.

Washington State University’s alert system tweeted Monday that officials would make a decision when to begin Tuesday’s classes and would announce it to students and faculty via text message by 6 a.m.

Four inches of snow fell at the Spokane International Airport on Sunday, a record for the day, the National Weather Service reported. A new round of snow starting Monday evening is expected to bring another 6 to 8 inches in Spokane. Cote said additional local snowfall totals could reach a foot by Tuesday evening, with heavier snowfall totals predicted east of Spokane in the Idaho Panhandle.

Most locations around the Inland Northwest reported snowfall totals between 4 inches and 8 inches for the 24-hour period ending Monday morning. In addition to the 7 1/2 inches measured at Spokane International Airport during that time frame, 6.3 inches were measured in Coeur d’Alene, 5.8 inches in north Spokane and 6 1/2 inches south of Cheney.

In Western Washington, snow totals were slightly more modest this weekend. Downtown Seattle reported 4 inches, as did Olympia. Cle Elum, on the east side of Snoqualmie Pass, reported 10 inches of snowfall.

The region will be hit with multiple small systems that will bring waves of snowfall, said Cote. Washington state has been hit hard with snow over the past several days, with a rare heavy snowfall in Seattle snarling traffic and leading to some good-natured ribbing from Eastern Washington residents on social media.

“It’s a similar pattern,” said Cote. “What they got, we sort of got at the same time. This is a bunch of systems coming through the areas that we’ve been seeing.”

Many planes have been leaving and arriving on time at Spokane International Airport, but some flights have been delayed or canceled. Those flights were primarily coming from or headed to Seattle, according to flight data provided by Todd Woodard, a spokesman for the airport.

Seven flights to Seattle on Monday afternoon were canceled, as were seven departures. Two flights scheduled to land in Seattle were instead diverted to Spokane, but most of the travel into and out of the West Plains was not affected, Woodard said.

“We’ve have no issues here, no operational issues at all, in the last 72 hours or so,” he said.

About a dozen flights were delayed Monday.

The snow closed several areas roads Sunday and is being blamed for several car collisions. Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigney said Monday afternoon the agency had responded to 129 crashes in Spokane County since noon on Saturday.

Interstate 90 was closed shortly after 5 p.m. in both directions on either side of Snoqualmie Pass due to multiple spinouts and crashes, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. The agency did not provide an estimate for when the highway would reopen.

Spokane Transit Authority buses were generally running on time, said Brandon Rapez-Beatty, a spokesman for the agency, in an email Monday afternoon. Officials will montior conditions Tuesday and have the option of detouring to pre-determined snow routes if conditions worsen. Riders can text 99689 with their stop number for real-time arrival and departure times.

Temperatures are expected to rise over the next 48 hours, with highs on Tuesday expected to climb above freezing. That’ll make the falling snow wetter, but shouldn’t lead to a substantial snowmelt during the week, Cote said.

“We’ve been having this light, fluffy snow with it being this cold,” he said. “It’ll still be a little bit fluffy, but as we warm up a bit it will become a little bit wetter and heavier, especially as we go into the day tomorrow and tomorrow night.”

City of Spokane crews restarted a full city plow that began Friday, according to a news release. Crews are working 24/7 shifts and prioritized arterials, hills, bridges and routes to school on Monday morning. All streets are plowed during a full city snow event, but the process takes about three days.

Plows are expected to roll through downtown Monday night, the city announced on Twitter. On-street parking is prohibited beginning at midnight and ending at 6 a.m.

Residents can track the progress of Spokane snow plows at the city’s website, my.spokanecity.org/streets/maintenance/snow-removal.

Residents in outlying areas of Spokane County can monitor plow progress on the county Public Works department’s website.

A winter storm warning for the area is in effect until 4 p.m. Tuesday.

This story will be updated.

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