Trick or treat: Chilly and windy weather is here

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With the month of October upon us, I’m getting many comments about the “change in the air.” My friend Julie said that, “it’s here,” referring to the recent chilly mornings. Ron, another good friend, was enjoying the 50-degree weather.

In addition to the cooler conditions, the winds picked up last Friday and Saturday. They were a bit strong in some areas as gusts were near 40 miles per hour. Fall has definitely arrived across the North Country.

And, what a difference a year makes. For this month, Cliff has measured a puny 0.14 inches of moisture. From Oct. 1 through Oct. 8, 2016, Coeur d’Alene picked up 1.84 inches. As many of us remember, the final total for moisture last October was a whopping 8.88 inches, well above the 2.22 inches we usually receive during the month.

We’re still in a pattern of drier-than-normal weather across much of the Northwest. Since June 28, there have only been 8 days with measurable amounts of rain. Fortunately, Sept. 19 was a record-setting day as 0.71 inches fell at Cliff’s station.

Thanks to the recent formation of a weak “La Nina” sea-surface temperature event in the waters of the south-central Pacific Ocean, Cliff and I see a return to the wetter side of the meteorologist scale as early as late this month. However, in this crazy cycle of wide weather “extremes,” weather patterns may be taking longer to develop, so the heavier moisture may hold off until November.

The upcoming late fall and winter season is still pointing to wetter and cooler than normal conditions. Therefore, Cliff and I are predicting higher than average snowfall totals for North Idaho and surrounding regions. We’ll have more details, including snowfall predictions, in two weeks.

At this time of year, the clash from the invading cooler air from the north and the warmer air to the south will often generate big windstorms. The bigger the collision of these air masses, the bigger the storms. They are sometimes called or known as Big Blows. They will form in the eastern Pacific Ocean and often originate from the Gulf of Alaska. It’s not uncommon for Coeur d’Alene to experience at least several days each year with winds over 40 miles per hour.

The gusty winds over the weekend may have served as a reminder of the huge windstorm nearly two years ago. On Nov. 16, 2015, a system of historic proportions slammed into the northwestern portion of the country. Very strong winds led to numerous power outages, downed trees and power lines and damaged buildings. More than one million people were left without power across the Northwest. In our region, about 180,000 people lost power. During the big ice storm in 1996, there were about 100,000 people without electricity.

On that November day, winds were gusting to 60 miles per hour at Cliff’s station out on Player Drive. The highest wind gust at the Coeur d’Alene Airport was 58 mph. The highest wind speed reported in Idaho was in Bonner County at Colburn with a whopping 101 mph gust. In Kootenai County, winds at Huetter hit 67 mph. Magee Peak in Shoshone County had a gust of 82 mph. Worley reported 60 mph and Post Falls had a gust of 55 mph.

The strongest wind gust in eastern Washington last November occurred at the Mission Ridge Ski Area in Chelan County with an incredible gust of 137 miles per hour. One observer near Wenatchee reported a gust of 101 mph. Comparing these wind speeds to hurricanes, a Category 1 storm has sustained winds of 74 mph. The wind gust at the Mission Ridge Ski area was in the Category 4 range of a hurricane.

Speaking of hurricanes, as of this writing late Saturday, a fourth hurricane made landfall in the U.S. or its territories. Counting Hurricane Nate, there have been nine hurricanes that have formed for the 2017 season, more than double the normal. In the Atlantic Ocean, NOAA says there have been 46 “hurricane days,” a 24-hour period which a hurricane is recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. This is also twice the normal number of days.

This 2017 tropical storm and hurricane season is likely going to be the costliest ever. Preliminary damage totals will probably end up between $400 and $500 billion.

In the near-term, this week will see chilly temperatures, as lows should in the low- to mid-30s around Coeur d’Alene and into the 20s in the some of the outlying areas. Rain showers are possible toward the middle to the end of the week before conditions turn dry.

The chances of rainfall increase during the “new moon” lunar phase of Oct. 19-26. There is the possibility of a dry Halloween as our region may be “in-between” storms. It’ll be close.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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