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By Bob Valen 

What's your winter favorite - ice or snow?

Weather Watcher

 


Each of us can recall severe storms we’ve lived through. Major thunderstorms with crashing lightning and heavy rain and hail. Wind events, not unlike some we’ve had right here in the Coulee — those walls of dust moving through, blowing over trees, damaging roofs. There’s the major league storms — tornadoes and hurricanes, and the results they bring. I recall witnessing at least three storms that came close to stopping most all human activity. Ice storms can slow or stop us in our tracks very effectively.

Some 22 years ago on Nov. 19, 1996, Spokane was brought to a near standstill by a severe ice storm. Here in the Coulee and throughout the Upper Columbia Basin, our geography makes us susceptible to cold air settling in, creating optimum conditions for extreme winter weather. This whole region sits between two major mountain ranges — the Cascades, somewhat close and to our west, and further to our east, the Northern Rockies. These optimum weather conditions existed in the Spokane area, and with some snow on the ground, freezing rain hit. Cold temperatures and a good amount of rain created an ideal ice storm. The official weather station for Spokane, located at the Spokane International Airport, recorded a high temperature of 33˚F for the day and 1.24 inches of rain — freezing rain, freezing drizzle, snow and mist. The station also reported freezing fog around the city.

Well, activity came to a near halt in the Spokane area. Trees fell nearly everywhere as they couldn’t hold up under the added weight of the ice. Structures were damaged, power lines were down. Over half the city lost electrical power. It was the worst power outage in 108 years. Following the storm, over 100,000 people were without power. Some were without power for over two weeks. Four people lost their lives to the storm, and damages were estimated at over $22 million.

So, where might we be heading this winter? Well, we are on the doorstep of winter; it officially starts Dec. 21. The “predictors” at the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) are showing us having above normal temperatures and an equal chance of “above, below or normal” precipitation. This is for the three-month period of December, January and February. I did want to remind everyone that we do get snow here. So, I’ve included a snowfall chart showing the range of past snowfall here — maximums and minimums et cetera, since records have been kept at our official weather station. Enjoy!

Regarding November, here is what we had weather-wise. The home weather station recorded a high temperature of 65.6˚F on the 2nd and a low of 22.7˚F on the 18th. The mean was 37.6˚F. The all-time high was 69˚F in 1989. The all-time low was -10˚F in 1985 and the all-time mean temperature is 37.5˚F. Precipitation came in at 1.07 inches and little lasting snowfall. The all-time record precipitation for November was 3.95 inches in 1973, and the mean is 1.24 inches. So, we lagged behind the mean this year. Though we had no measurable snowfall, the mean for November is 1.3 inches, and back in 1955 we had 17.5 inches total.

We’ll have a full Moon on December 22. Winter Solstice will occur on December 21, 2018. In the Northern Hemisphere, astronomers and scientists use the December Solstice as the start of the winter season. That solstice ends on the March Equinox. For meteorologists, winter begins Dec. 1. Weather hobbyist like to play in the snow during winter!

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