Up to a foot of snow is expected as a major winter storm heads into the Spokane area
Temperatures are falling below zero in Spokane as the area prepares for heavy snowfall.
Light snow is expected to begin falling early Wednesday morning and continue throughout the day, with 2 to 3 inches arriving Wednesday morning and heavy snow continuing into Wednesday evening.
As of Thursday morning, “Spokane’s forecast calls for approximately 8 to 12 inches of snow,” National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Bodnar said.
Preparing for the winter storm Schools in the storm area will determine whether school will be canceled or delayed early Wednesday morning.
Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College will be closed Wednesday “due to expected hazardous weather conditions.” The same is true for district offices at community colleges and Head Start centers.
The Spokane Public Schools Inclement Weather Team meets at 4:30 a.m. to assess road conditions and weather forecast.
District spokesman Ryan Lancaster said they aim to notify families by 5:30 a.m., and if they are not notified of a cancellation or delay by 6 a.m., families should assume school is continuing as usual.
If district officials cancel school, the district usually uses the first scheduled make-up day to hold a class instead. In Spokane Public Schools, it is March 15. Other makeup days are scheduled for June.
Central Valley Schools begins road evaluation at 3 a.m. with a drive around the district. Families should expect to receive direct notification from the district via phone call, email or text message by 5:15 a.m
The road crew in Spokane is also preparing for a snowy night.
“We have all of our equipment ready to go,” Spokane Public Works Director Marilyn Vest said. That means plows, front-end loaders, graders and snowblowers, “all in this snow fleet, ready to go.”
“We’ve been making sure we have our stock of de-icer and sand,” Vest said. “We have also notified our water and sewer teams that are joining us when we have larger plowing efforts and we expect to have them join us in plowing.”
Typically during the winter, ice crews are available 20 hours a day. To account for this gap, the city’s night crew will stay later and the morning crew will come in early Tuesday night through Wednesday.
Even with these preparations, “drivers should still be prepared for a potentially snowy trip tomorrow,” Vest said.
“If the snow accumulation is very heavy, streets can quickly fill back up and look like they were never touched before, but our teams will be there in the middle of the night and into the morning,” she said.
City and county crews will prioritize major arterials, hills, hospitals, school and emergency routes.
“When it snows consistently like this, our goal is to keep those major arteries flowing,” Feist said. “When things calm down, we will move to smaller streets, and eventually residential streets will be plowed as well.”
There are things community members can do to ease the burden on road crews. A press release from the City of Spokane encouraged moving vehicles, boats, trailers and basketball hoops off the street if possible to give plows ample space to clear roads for traffic. Residents can plan ahead for a longer morning commute, work from home, avoid high traffic times or take the bus, the release said.
Feist also had a message for those who live near schools, hospitals and community centers.
“Anything they can do to help clear snow off the sidewalks will be really helpful,” she said. “We know it’s a challenge, but if people can help and get involved, we can make it safer for our kids in schools and for others using sidewalks.”
By Thursday, the flurries are expected to subside, with periods of intermittent light snowfall through Friday.
By Sunday, temperatures should warm enough for rain. “Between snowy and rainy weather, Saturday will be a transition period, so be prepared for periods of freezing rain or sleet,” Bodnar said.
Spokane has gotten about 17 inches of snow this season, still more than 10 inches below normal for this time of year.
The upcoming snowfall will give a much-needed boost to the region’s mountains, most of which have snowfall rates between 60% and 70% of normal. Mountains in the Inland Northwest could receive up to 2 feet of snow, while the Cascades are expected to receive 3 to 4 feet.
Reporter Elena Perry contributed to this article.