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A big year for snow

by Nick Rotunno
| November 27, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Storms dumped 19.5 inches of snow on the Coeur d'Alene area over the past week, an accumulation that has already eclipsed last winter's total snowfall of 18.4 inches.

And more snow is on the way.

"We already picked up a half an inch of snow between 3 and 4 o'clock," climatologist Cliff Harris said Friday afternoon. "We've got a chance to pick up six to eight inches of snow between (Friday) and Tuesday."

Coeur d'Alene's snowiest November on record occurred in 1973, when Mother Nature blew in 31.6 inches of powder. That record might be challenged over the next few days, as multiple weather systems head for North Idaho.

"I think we'll end up between 26 and 28 (inches)," Harris predicted. "We could give that record a run for its money. We still have four days yet."

La Nina, a meteorological occurrence born from colder-than-normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is responsible for the heavy snowfall, Harris said. The winter of 2007-08, when a record 172.9 inches fell on the Lake City, was a La Nina year. So too was 2008-09, which saw 145.6 inches of snow.

Harris expects at least 80 inches in Coeur d'Alene this winter, with up to 100 in outlying areas like Sandpoint, Athol and Kellogg. There could be upward of 280 inches on the local ski hills, he added.

"I haven't had studded snow tires in years," Harris said, "and I went ahead with this La Nina and put 'em on."

Thermometers finally rose above 32 degrees on Friday after close to a week of sub-freezing - and often sub-zero - temperatures. The season's first frost was last Saturday, Harris noted, and by Tuesday morning the mercury had dipped to -9 degrees, a near-record.

Conditions should improve this weekend, with highs in the 30s expected today. But the snow won't be letting up, and North Idaho residents should keep their shovels handy.

"It's been cold, it's been snowy, but that is La Nina," Harris said. "A bunch more snow is coming."

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