Monday, June 17, 2024

A history of Easter weather

| April 10, 2023 1:05 AM

Another storm brought more moisture to the Inland Northwest early this week. Additional systems are expected to bring more wet weather to the region through the middle of the week. It’s also possible that we could see some snow in the lower elevations during the overnight hours. Otherwise, much of the moisture that falls will likely be in the form of rain across the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene region.

With all the crazy weather we’ve been hearing about, I wanted to provide some of the extremes that occurred on or around Easter Sunday.

In terms of the coldest Easter on record in the U.S., a strong system from the north sent temperatures well below zero March 30, 1975, across the Great Plains and Upper Midwest, along with moderate to heavy snowfalls. On that Easter Sunday, readings in Fargo, N.D., dropped to a frigid -15 degrees. The extreme cold and blizzard conditions led to widespread travel disruptions and power outages.

The day after Easter, from March 31 through April 1, 1997, a blizzard brought heavy snow and strong winds to parts of the central and eastern United States. Some areas in Wisconsin and Michigan received over 20 inches of snow. It was known as the “April Fools' Day blizzard.” On Easter Sunday 2007, heavy snows were reported in the Midwest and Northeast with up to 18 inches of snow across parts of Wisconsin and Michigan.

By contrast, on April 19, 1992, Phoenix, Ariz., reported the warmest Easter Sunday in recorded history. On that day, the thermometer soared to a record 98 degrees.

As Easter falls during the spring season, we often hear about the severe weather that develops, especially east of the Rockies. As a result, there have been several notable Easter Sunday tornado outbreaks throughout history.

One of the most widespread and deadly outbreaks happened April 12, 2020, across the Southeast. According to the National Weather Service, there were a total of 141 confirmed tornadoes across 10 states during the outbreak, with the most significant damage occurring in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina. That outbreak ranked third for producing the most twisters in a 24-hour period. Prior to that event, there was another outbreak across the western and middle portions of Tennessee on March 2-3 that resulted in more than $1.6 billion in damages.

Heavy rains and flooding have also been seen on Easter Sunday. The 1979 Easter flood was one of the most costly and devastating to hit the state of Mississippi. Nearly $700 million in damages were seen, which is close to $2 billion in today’s dollars. The Pearl River was overwhelmed by extreme rainfall upstream and went over its banks. The state’s capital, Jackson, had streets under several feet of water.

For this year, Easter Sunday was the warmest day thus far in the United Kingdom with highs in the mid-60s. By contrast, parts of southern Australia experienced its coldest Easter Sunday since 1943.

Here in North Idaho, the coldest Easter Sunday occurred April 12, 2020, as the mercury dropped to a very chilly 23 degrees. The coldest Easter afternoon was April 4, 1926, as the high temperature could only manage to climb to 36 degrees. By contrast, the warmest Easter was April 17, 1949, with an afternoon high of a toasty 80 degrees.

Despite the spring season as one of the wettest times of the year, according to Cliff’s records, close to 70% of Easter Sundays across North Idaho have been dry. The wettest Easter in Coeur d’Alene occurred back in 2005 as a record-breaking 1.42 inches of rain fell March 27. The second most wettest was March 27, 2016, as 0.67 inches fell at Cliff’s station in northwestern Coeur d’Alene. In terms of snowfall, the most ever measured on Easter Sunday happened last year April 17 as 1.3 inches fell. Two days prior, we had a record 7.8 inches of snow. April of 2022 was the snowiest April in Coeur d’Alene’s history as 10.1 inches was reported.

As of the weekend, our seasonal snowfall total for Coeur d’Alene stands at 83.7 inches. After a chilly start to the month with highs in the 40s, readings managed to climb into the 50s starting last Thursday. After this week, the chances for measurable snowfall in the lower elevations will be very small as the 2022-23 season winds down. The upper-level wind patterns are changing so the rest of the month is expected to be milder with above-normal precipitation. The average moisture total for this month is 1.77 inches and with the rain expected this week, Coeur d’Alene will likely be over an inch of moisture for first half of April.

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