With snow and gas prices falling, what more could you ask for Christmas outside?
All right, bare roads would put the bow on top, but this is North Idaho.
Climatologist Cliff Harris said 7 to 13 inches of snow dumped on Kootenai County late Wednesday and early Thursday, depending on location, making for the biggest snowstorm of the winter.
"That guarantees we'll have a white Christmas," Harris said.
More snow is coming, he said.
The area could see another 4 to 6 inches between today and Christmas as at least three more storms are expected.
"But they won't be as big as the last one," Harris said, adding that some rain and rain-snow mix could occur if it warms up enough. "We'll have a potpourri of winter fare weather-wise."
Harris said it won't be warm long enough to melt off all the snow anytime soon, however.
Temperatures from Sunday through Wednesdays should be around 30 for the high and upper teens and lower 20s for the low.
Harris said the sun may break out on Christmas Day, but more snow is expected before New Year's Day.
Harris said that, as of noon on Thursday, the area had received a total of 28.7 inches of snow this winter and 21.8 inches for December. This month's amount has already passed December's average by an inch.
"We'll be well above normal (69.8 inches) for the year, even though we got off to a slow start," Harris said. "I'm looking for another 50 to 60 inches of snow between now and the end of the season."
Harris said changing weather conditions will likely make mountain passes both to the west and east a challenge for traffic.
"There will be a lot of snow, ice and some melting over the next several days," he said. "Travel conditions won't be great, but I've seen worse years."
Meanwhile, gas prices, which averaged $3.10 in Coeur d'Alene and $3.13 in Post Falls on Thursday, continue to fall. The nation's average is $3.22 and Idaho's mark of $3.23 is as low as it has been since February.
"The 40-cent drop (in the past month) has been dramatic and is a welcome Christmas gift to Idahoans on a budget," said Dave Carlson, AAA spokesman.
Carlson said prices in Lewiston have dipped below $3.
Lower oil prices since late October, lower demand and a switchover to less expensive winter blend fuels have helped push prices down, Carlson said.
But tighter supplies and regional problems with refineries and pipelines earlier this year pushed prices above last year's numbers.
Carlson said the reprieve from higher prices is expected to last a month or two.
"We're at the bottom of one of those annual cycles where travel demand and adequate supplies will keep lower prices around," he said.
However, that will likely change as investors look to energy markets for speculative purposes.
"That will likely begin to push prices higher starting in late February and into early spring," Carlson said.
AAA forecasts 93.3 million Americans - a 1.6 percent increase over last year's 91.8 million - will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Christmas/New Year's holiday period.
"A slight uptick in key economic drivers and a desire to be with families will drive a modest increase in travel," Carlson said. "Despite the low growth in real disposable income, consumers appear more willing to travel and increase spending this holiday."
Gas price comparison
Thurs. week ago month ago 6 mo. ago year ago
Cd'A $3.10 $3.15 $3.42 $3.67 $3.30
Post Falls $3.13 $3.23 $3.48 $3.71 $3.27
Idaho $3.23 $3.36 $3.63 $3.75 $3.20
U.S. $3.22 $3.30 $3.41 $3.50 $3.21