From fire to snow across parts of the North Country

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Our mid-October pattern change has arrived across the Inland Northwest. Temperatures last week dropped to below normal levels along with rain and even a mix of snow in the lower elevations. Not very typical of mid-October.

Last Friday, Oct. 13, the high was only 40 degrees in Coeur d’Alene, compared to an average of 62 degrees. That’s a whopping 22 degrees below normal. Cliff tells me that chilly temperature was a record low maximum for the 13th. The previous record was 46 degrees set back in 1920.

For the 14th of October, the high was 49 degrees. But, in 2009, the low was 15 degrees with a high of only 39 degrees. This was the coldest weather for this area in recorded history for so early in the season.

In addition to the very chilly weather, rainfall has increased across North Idaho. Flakes of snow were also spotted in Coeur d’Alene late last week. Measurable snow, however, was reported around the top of Canfield Mountain.

For the rest of this month, we’re going to have a series of storms move in from the Gulf of Alaska. So far, we’ve had 0.80 inches of rain at Cliff’s station in Coeur d’Alene. The normal for the entire month is 2.22 inches. With the big pattern change, moisture totals should end up above normal for October, but not close to the record of 8.88 inches last year.

Also, the air may be cold enough late this week to produce some additional snowflakes in the mountains. The date with the best chance of measurable snowfall in the Coeur d’Alene area would be around the “full moon” lunar cycle of Nov. 4-9.

As I mentioned in another article, Cliff’s records show that there have been instances of measurable amounts of the white stuff in October in Coeur d’Alene. The most that fell was back in 1957 with 6.8 inches. Cliff’s records say that 3.0 inches fell on Oct. 22 and 3.8 inches was reported on the 23rd. There was one Halloween day in Coeur d’Alene when 3 inches of snow fell. That occurred back in 1971.

Thanks to the cooler sea-surfaces temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean, La Nina, Cliff and I are predicting a winter season with above normal snowfall. Next week, we’ll have our annual snowfall forecast for North Idaho and other parts of the Inland Northwest.

Last week, I talked about the winds that tend to be much stronger during the fall season. Here in the North Country, we’ve already had a few days with winds nearing 40 miles per hour. But to the south in California, very strong winds of more than 60 miles per hour helped to ignite more than nearly two dozen large wildfires. Early last week, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a “state of emergency” for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in the northern part of the state.

Many of my friends and family who live in Northern California could smell and see the smoke from the blazes. Since the wildfires began, close to 200,000 acres have been burned, including the many acres of California’s pristine wine country. In just 12 hours on Monday, Oct. 9, fires consumed more than 20,000 acres. Over 3,500 structures, mostly homes, have been destroyed since the recent blazes began.

The 2017 wildfire season in the western U.S. is the worst in recorded history, according to area officials. California’s recent firestorm is being called “the deadliest in history.”

Through the end of last week, about 8.6 million acres have burned in the U.S. from over 51,000 fires, most from the western portions of the country. And, it’s not just the western U.S. states that are dealing with these blazes.

In April and May of this year, there were numerous wildfires across Georgia and Florida, one near the border of the two states that consumed about 140,000 acres. In Montana, drought conditions led to many blazes that consumed more than 1 million acres.

To the north, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta had some of the worst fires ever seen. The thick smoke from those blazes got pushed in over our region in early September, creating “hazardous” air quality conditions.

In other parts of the world, wildfires were also a major problem in 2017. The fire season in Italy and Romania was more than three times normal. Back in June, a major blaze in Portugal killed 60 people in one weekend. Due to dryness, many regions in southern Europe were consumed by fires.

Wildfires were also seen in Siberia in Russia. Early this summer, blazes were reported in South Africa. Christchurch in New Zealand went into a state of emergency last February (their summer season) after a wildfire destroyed homes and businesses.

In California, there is a chance of some shower activity down into the northern portion of the state late in the week. Let’s hope they get some of that much-needed moisture.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at

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