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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Warm temps trigger rapid snowmelt, burst pipes, urban flooding across Inland Northwest

Dec. 27, 2022 Updated Tue., Dec. 27, 2022 at 8:46 p.m.

Snow and high temperatures in the 30s are expected this week after a sudden warming period brought heavy rainfall Monday night into Tuesday that melted much of the ice and snowpack in Spokane.

Temperatures in the 40s on Tuesday, combined with rainfall expected to continue until Wednesday morning, could cause flooding in urban areas and in fields and creeks, National Weather Service meteorologist Charlotte Dewey said.

Paradise Creek in Moscow, Idaho, overflowed on Tuesday morning, causing roads to close.

The rainfall is expected to transition back to snow throughout the week, Dewey said.

“After tomorrow, we have more chances for snow later Thursday into Friday and probably parts of Saturday,” Dewey said of the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas.

Dewey said the weather service anticipates less than an inch of snow through Saturday in areas below 3,000 feet.

“There is a good chance of refreezing of any melted water on the roadways over the next couple of days,” Dewey said.

High winds will peak early on Wednesday morning and continue midday, primarily in the Columbia Basin, Palouse and parts of Spokane County, with gusts as high as 45-55 mph, she said.

High temperatures are expected to drop into the 20s over the weekend, the weather service reported.

Burst pipes

The Spokane Fire Department received nearly 80 reports of burst water pipes throughout the city by Tuesday morning, as a result last week’s severe cold and the sudden warming period on Tuesday, Spokane Fire Department Chief Brian Schaeffer said.

Many of the uninsulated pipes “can only contract so many times before they break,” Schaeffer said.

The broken pipes were primarily in commercial addresses and apartments throughout the city, often because workers or residents were away for the holiday, Schaeffer said. As a result, some of the broken pipes weren’t reported until days after, he said.

The number of reported broken pipes is uncommon, but not unexpected given the recent temperature fluctuations.

“We haven’t had a year like this probably since the last deep freeze people keep referring to as the 2008 ‘Snowpocalypse,’ ” Schaeffer said.

Drywall repair, carpet cleaning and dehumidifiers will likely be in high demand over the next week, he said.

Schaeffer recommended applying insulation or heat tape to pipes to help prevent them from freezing .

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