Ice storm warning issued for Spokane, Coeur d’Alene

January 18, 2017 GMT

A freezing rain storm arrived in Eastern Washington and North Idaho Tuesday evening, creating treacherous driving conditions.

The Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas were added to the ice storm warning area Tuesday evening, with forecasters calling for up to half an inch of ice by Wednesday morning. The National Weather Service is warning of tree damage and power outages.

However, this storm likely won’t compare to the ice storm of 1996. During that storm the region was slammed with more than an inch of ice, said weather forecaster Robin Fox.

The Washington State Patrol reported numerous crashes related to the ice and suggested drivers stay home if possible.

Forecasters said that pavement temperatures will remain below freezing and could cause icy conditions even after the air temperature rises above freezing overnight.

Spokane International Airport reported Tuesday night that its runway was closed, and most flights were canceled or diverted to other airports.

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Officials on Tuesday evening told the Associated Press that the westbound lanes of Interstate 90 in Ellensburg would be closed overnight because of freezing rain and avalanche danger.

The precipitation is likely to fall as a mix of freezing rain and sleet before turning to all rain by 11 a.m. Wednesday. A temperature of 35 is expected by 3 a.m., the National Weather Service said this evening.

Freezing rain was reported on Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office also reported icing conditions there. WSP Trooper Brian Moore said conditions were getting treacherous in Central Washington and that icy roads have led to accidents.

High school basketball games in North Idaho were canceled Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service has posted a series of watches and warnings for ice and snow accumulations for Tuesday into Wednesday morning to be followed by heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday.

As the last of this month’s arctic cold gets moved away, precipitation will switch over to all rain to raise a risk for localized flooding.

Small streams may rise as well. Ice jams could create flooding hazards along streams.

On the positive side, smoke pollution in the Spokane area, which went to a level of unhealthy for sensitive persons, will be swept out of the area by the storm.

Air quality had improved to the moderately polluted range by Tuesday afternoon.

Spokane’s urban area had been under a stage 1 yellow burning ban since last week. That prohibits use of non-certified stoves or fireplaces.

Streets and storm sewers may be inundated with standing water and slush.

Public safety officials are cautioning motorists not to drive through standing water.

Spokane and Coeur d’Alene are under a flood watch on Wednesday morning through Friday morning.

Snow could return by Thursday night in Coeur d’Alene. Spokane should see a mix of snow and rain Thursday night.

High temperatures should rise to the upper 30s to lower 40s through Friday.

Spokane and Coeur d’Alene could see more than an inch of rain by the end of the day Thursday.