Still lots of snow in North Idaho mountains

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At 3:28 a.m. this morning, spring arrived as we say so long to one of the toughest winters in recent memory. No one will argue that it’s been cold, wet and snowy. We’ve had two months with record-breaking precipitation, October of 2016 and February.

October of 2016 had a record-smashing 8.88 inches of rain. Last month, February of 2017, Coeur d’Alene picked up 8.01 inches of rain and melted snow. Since last October, Cliff has measured 30.86 inches of moisture. Therefore, we’ve received more than our entire seasonal normal of 26.77 inches within the last 6 months.

Our snowfall season will also end up well above normal levels. Cliff has measured 112 inches of the white stuff. That is the sixth highest total in recorded history in Coeur d’Alene and the fourth 100-inch or more season in the last 10 years. In 2007-08, a whopping 172.9 inches fell in Coeur d’Alene, with more than 190 inches in Rathdrum.

In the nearby mountains, there is still a lot of snow in the higher elevations. For example, at the Silver Mountain Resort on Sunday, there is a base depth of 75 to 83 inches. For the season, this resort reports 371 inches of snow. At Schweitzer Mountain, about 110 inches of the white stuff is measured in the upper mountain. Their seasonal snowfall total is about 292 inches. At Lookout Pass, there is approximately 104 to 122 inches of snow on the ground. For the season, this area has received a whopping 29 feet.

We do see more off-and-on rain shower activity through the rest of March. However, Cliff and I don’t think we’ll have another record-breaking month of precipitation. So far, Coeur d’Alene has received 4.38 inches, which will be another month of above-normal precipitation. The normal is 1.94 inches, with the wettest March occurring back in 2012 with 7.51 inches.

The above-normal precipitation and deep snowpacks in the mountains have also led to more flooding concerns. According to the Northwest River Forecast Center, Lake Coeur d’Alene is expected to peak around 2135.42 feet over the next few days. That would be officially listed as minor flooding. If the lake were to hit 2136 feet, then it would be moderate. Major flooding is at 2138 feet. The record is 2139.05 feet on Christmas Day in 1933. The normal is at 2128 feet. With additional moisture expected through the end of the month, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about additional flood watches and warnings.

Temperatures have finally warmed up to near or above-normal levels within the past week. Highs have been climbing into the upper 40s and 50s. We expect to see more 50-degree weather into the first part of April. Spokane has already reported a day with a high temperature of 60 degrees, which occurred on March 14. Coeur d’Alene’s high on that day was 10 degrees cooler with a reading of 50 degrees. A big difference for two areas about 30 miles apart.

While the West Coast continues to deal with flooding, parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, extreme northeastern Texas, Missouri, and portions of Alabama and northern Georgia are under moderate to severe drought conditions. Severe drought continues over central Alabama, extreme northern Georgia and much of Florida, which has suffered recently from widespread wildfires.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, large fire activity has significantly increased in the Southern and Rocky Mountain areas. There have been at least two dozen large fires that have burned more than 1.1 million acres. Sixty-one new large fires were reported last week, including the Starbuck Fire in Oklahoma that has burned 623,000 acres and the Perrytown Fire in Texas that is 315,156 acres.

Since Jan. 1, 2017, more than 9,600 wildfires have burned more than 1.6 million acres. That’s more than nine times the 10-year average acres burned. Unfortunately, not much moisture is expected across the drought areas of the Great Plains.

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In terms of our weather, conditions are expected to turn a little drier and warmer than normal around early to mid April. The average precipitation for next month is 1.77 inches. In 2016, we had 1.23 inches. For May, the normal is 2.37 inches, but 2016 was another drier than average month with 1.77 inches.

Moisture totals are expected to increase again by the middle of May and continue into early June. The summer of 2016 may turn out to be hotter and drier than normal if sea-surface temperatures continue to climb in the south-central Pacific Ocean. By the way, climate scientists say that we could see a new warmer El Nino ocean water event develop as early as the summer season. If that were to happen, then our next winter season should have much less snow. Stay tuned.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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