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By Bob Valen 

January brings a negative, but it's been far colder

Weather Watcher


Our conversations seem to be revolving around the weather. It’s understandable, it’s been cold and wet; lots of snow on the ground, and some of our friends have been south or to Mexico and are bragging. We also have a general tendency to not like cold. There are some exceptions; I’m one, I prefer cool weather, not hot.

The curse of a lot of folks this time of year is the snow. It builds up, creates a mess that requires removal and/or piling, and can be a pain, literally, to walk and drive on.

Snow, an interesting word. I did a little research and found that it comes from the Proto-Germanic snaiwaz. Old English roots go back to about 1300 A.D. It replaced the word “sneo.” Another little gem that I ran across is the phrase, “to snow someone under” or “snow job.” Of course, the meaning of the phrase is “persistent persuasion in a dubious cause.” My sources state that the phrase started with the armed forces during WWII.

The winter of 1968-69 was a record breaker for cold temperatures in our region. There was some chatter in The Star about the cold. The Jan. 6, 1969 issue shared this: “Temperatures dipped near the minus twenty mark last week, and reports from farm folks in the Rex-Delrio area had their thermometers registering near forty below.”

The February 6, 1969 issue added some really interesting cold weather facts about Lake Roosevelt: “Lake Roosevelt is frozen over for the first time in many years. … Seldom does the ice extend from Grand Coulee to Canada. The only known clear spot is at Keller Ferry where the ferry has been running up to twenty hours a day to keep a path broken through the ice.”

OK, let’s look at the numbers for January. The home weather station has been dutifully recording and shows a high temperature for January of 41.9˚F on Jan. 22, with a low of minus 1.0˚F on Jan. 4. We had 6.1 inches of new snowfall with a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 1.6 inches. Total snowfall at the home weather station this winter is 29.7 inches. Our region’s official weather station, managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, is showing total snowfall this winter at 27.2 inches.

Here’s a new measurement for you: On Moses Mountain, at 5,010 feet above sea level, the total snowfall this winter is 42 inches. Given our snowfall totals, you would think the snow pack is above normal. To our north, what’s referred to as the Upper Columbia, the snow pack is at 93 percent of normal as of the first of February. Let’s define snow pack: It is a measurement of Snow Water Equivalent — the amount of water in the snow on the ground.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has this to say about February, March and April: “The February-March-April (FMA) out-look favors higher chances for colder temperatures than usual for most of the state. The southernmost portion of WA, however, has equal chances of below, near-normal, or above-normal temperatures for FMA. With regards to precipitation, the CPC favors higher chances for above- average precipitation east of the Cascades, while Western WA has equal chances of below, near-normal, or above-normal precipitation totals.”

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