More extreme weather in early October

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The late summer and early fall of 2019 has seen some of the wildest and craziest weather extremes in recent memory. Here in North Idaho, we had not one, but two very early snowstorms that broke records that go all the way back to 1895.

At Cliff’s station, a record-breaking 1.8 inches of snow fell last week, taking the seasonal total to 2.9 inches. And, according to his records, there has never been a time in recorded history with this much snow for so early in the season.

As I mentioned last week, the earliest snowfall to ever occur in Coeur d’Alene happened on Sept. 23, 1926. During that event, it was reported that area children were building snowmen. On average, the first day with any kind of measurable snowfall doesn’t occur until Oct. 22. In most years, we don’t often see an inch of snow from a storm until at least early to mid November.

It’s almost hard to believe, but there are places to the west, like Spokane, that received more snow than Coeur d’Alene. At the Spokane International Airport, last week’s storm dropped a record 3.6 inches of snow, taking their seasonal total to 6.9 inches. As of early Saturday, there was still an inch of snow on the ground.

Since Coeur d’Alene is closer to the mountains, we often receive more moisture than Spokane. In fact, their normal seasonal snowfall is 44.9 inches, compared to 69.8 inches at Cliff’s station in northwestern Coeur d’Alene. Eventually, Coeur d’Alene will pass up Spokane’s snowfall total.

In Montana, over 4 feet of snow was measured in Browning, a town near Glacier National Park, from the late September storm. More snow fell early this month, and then came the frigid temperatures as readings went down into the single digits, a pattern not typical at all for early October.

Snow recently moved over the north-central portions of the U.S. Blizzard conditions were reported in North Dakota and forecasters have called the early October storm “historic.” Parts of northeastern North Dakota already received over 2 feet of new snow. Winds were gusting up to 45 miles per hour in this part of the country, making for very tough conditions.

And, talk about wild temperature swings. Prior to the first snowfall of the season in Denver, the city was enjoying temperatures in the 80s. In a span of 30 hours, the temperature fell an incredible 70 degrees. In 5 hours, there was a drop of 50 degrees. The thermometer went from 52 degrees Fahrenheit down to 28 degrees. According to area meteorologists, this was Denver’s second-largest temperature fluctuation since 1872.

The fastest temperature drop in recorded history occurred at Rapid City, S. D. on Jan. 10, 1911. On that day, the mercury plunged 49 degrees Fahrenheit in just 5 minutes. Now that’s quite a drop.

While there have been extreme cold and rare snows over the northern U.S., the southern U.S. from Texas into the Southeast has seen heat and dryness that has seriously hurt area crops from late August into early October. Many are saying this is the worst period of heat and dryness during that time of year since 1980. Nearly 100 percent of Georgia is suffering from drought as September was the driest on record for this state.

In California, several wildfires are raging near Los Angeles that was sparked by high winds and low humidity levels. As of the weekend, over 100,000 residents were forced to evacuate.

Despite the horrible fires in Southern California, the U.S. 2019 fire season was better than last year. Since Jan. 1, there have been nearly 42,600 fires in the U.S. Last year at this time, there were close to 50,000 blazes. In terms of acres burned, over 4.4 million acres were charred from wildfires in 2019. In 2018, from Jan. 1 through October 11, there were over 8.1 million acres that were burned. In 2017, the figure was a little higher with over 8.5 million acres.

In terms of our local weather, Cliff and I expect to see more rain shower activity later this week. Another round of colder air is forecast to move southward late in the week that will likely produce some snow in the higher mountains. It’s also possible that we could see a rain and snow mix in the lower elevations late Friday and into the weekend.

Longer-term, Cliff and I expect to see an increase of moisture across the region next month. We should also have another year with above-normal snowfall across North Idaho. And, if things keep going the way they are, it’s quite possible that snowfall totals in the Coeur d’Alene and surrounding areas at least double the seasonal normal. Cliff already says that we have a 95% chance of a white Christmas, which would be the fifth year in a row with snow on the ground on Dec. 25.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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