Most of Eastern Washington and North Idaho will wake up Monday morning to strong winds that could cause power outages and impede travel, forecasters said Sunday.
“We want to emphasize a little bit stronger wind threat added earlier in the day,” Miranda Cote, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane, said during a briefing on the storm. “We’ll have the first push of some of these strong wind gusts in the morning, as the precipitation is decreasing and the front’s pushing in. That could be around 7, 8, 9, 10 am”
Precipitation, in the form of rain in the valleys and snow on mountain passes, will begin overnight Sunday as a strong cold front moves through the region. That front will bring strong southerly and westerly winds behind it, with gusts likely topping 50 mph at Spokane and 40 mph at Coeur d’Alene, forecasters say.
Cote liked the potential effects of the wind to the storm that swept through March 28 of last year. That storm closed Interstate 90 near Moses Lake due to blowing dust and darkened the homes of more than 11,000 Avista Utilities customers at its peak.
In a message to customers Saturday, the utility urged patience as it worked through local outages.
“Should we experience outages, we are ready and waiting to respond as soon as we’re safely able to do so,” the message read. Customers can report an outage using the Avista mobile app, texting OUT to 284-782 or report online.
Rainfall amounts between a quarter and a half an inch are expected in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area, but could be higher with localized thunderstorms throughout the day Monday, Cote said. But the biggest threat for precipitation will be on the mountain passes, particularly along the Cascades.
“We could see snowfall rates of an inch per hour this evening, late tonight into tomorrow morning, across Stevens Pass,” Cote said.
The weather service predicts a potential of 2 feet of wet snow on Stevens Pass, and 6 inches of snow on Lookout Pass in Idaho. Paired with the heavy winds that follow, forecasters are warning of downed trees and power lines in mountainous areas.
Blowing dirt along the Columbia Basin could create havoc for drivers in the lowlands as well. Visibility could fall to less than a quarter mile at times, forecasters said.
Winds will persist into Tuesday before quieting down later in the week, with gusts of 25-30 mph still possible in Spokane and slightly calmer across the Idaho border, before calming down further later this week.
A winter storm warning is in effect for areas of the Cascades from 2 pm Sunday to 8 am Tuesday. A high wind warning has been issued for most of Eastern Washington from 8 am to 11 pm Monday.