Thursday, March 30, 2023

December extremes and New Year's Records

| January 2, 2023 1:06 AM

It was certainly a wild December weather-wise across the Inland Northwest and other parts of the country. Here in Coeur d’Alene, we picked up approximately 20 inches of snow last month. Thanks to the frigid conditions into Christmas Day, Cliff measured 16 inches of snow on the ground Dec. 25. Warmer temperatures with heavy rainfall led to some area flooding a few days later melted the snow to 6 inches.

In other parts of the country, Buffalo, N.Y., a city known for snow during the winter months, was hit hard with record heavy snows in November and December. According to an article from Weather Underground, over 101 inches of snow has already fallen at the Buffalo International Airport as of late last week. The massive Christmas blizzard dumped over 50 inches of snow that buried roads, trapped motorists and shut down the main airport. Buffalo’s seasonal normal for snowfall is 95.4 inches, so they have already passed their average season-to-date.

The weather in North Idaho will start off a bit calmer when compared to December. However, it was still cold for the start of the 2023 with highs around the freezing mark in the lower elevations. Last year, Jan. 1, 2022, temperatures across the region dipped to below the zero mark. It was -3 degrees at Cliff’s station and 1 degree at the Spokane International Airport.

As far as our December temperatures, our average high was only 28 degrees last month. Our mildest afternoon was Dec. 27, with a high of 45 degrees. The coldest day was Dec. 22 with a high of just 6 degrees after a morning low of a frigid -12 degrees. Despite some below-zero temperatures, our average low last month was 19 degrees. We also had nearly 5 inches of rain and melted snow, which was above the average of 3.90 inches.

The overall weather pattern still shows a series of storms moving out of the Gulf of Alaska and into the West Coast over the next several weeks. However, much of the moisture is expected to fall to our south with California receiving more much-needed rainfall. We should still get our share of the Pacific moisture, but it is looking like most of the heavy snows for the 2022-23 season will have indeed fallen during the first half of the winter. But in this pattern of extremes, I wouldn’t rule out the chances for big snows over the next several months.

With the start of the New Year, here are some crazy weather records that occurred Jan. 1 across the country. According to data from David Ludlum, snow and severe cold hit the Midwest on Jan. 1, 1964. High temperatures were well below zero as Chicago reported -16 degrees as parts of Mississippi reported up to 15 inches of snow. Extremely cold weather gripped the central U.S. once again in 1949 and 1988. Temperatures dropped to -31 degrees in Colorado in 1988 with over a foot of snow in Upstate New York based on data from the National Weather Summery. The following year, in 1989, the fog was so thick from Texas to Wisconsin that many people said they couldn’t see the end of their nose.

In 1934, the Weather Channel states that heavy rain led to flooding in Los Angeles. Rainfall totals were over 16 inches of some locations with downtown Los Angeles receiving over 8 inches of rain. In 1997, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 3, very heavy rain sent the Truckee River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to its highest level in history. Lake Tahoe also reached its highest water level. There were numerous levee breaks in the valley locations in California that led to over $1.6 billion in damages.

One of the worst blizzards to hit the Midwest happened Jan. 1-3 in 1999. The storm dropped 22 inches of snow in Chicago and was ranked as the second worst blizzard of the 20th Century. The coldest temperature in the U.S. on Jan. 1 occurred in 1960 at Maybell, Colo. On that frigid day, the thermometer went all the way down to -60 degrees.

Tornadoes are rare during the winter season, but on Dec. 31, 2010, through Jan. 1, 2011, there were 11 twisters spotted in southern and central Mississippi. Two of them were a strong EF-3.

Here in North Idaho, one of the biggest events on Jan. 1 occurred in 1961 as a three-day ice storm hit the region. Ice was as much as 4-6 inches thick, with some isolated areas reporting up to 8 inches of ice. The harsh conditions led to widespread power outages.

In Coeur d’Alene, the warmest New Year’s Day occurred in 1918 with a high of 60 degrees. The coldest was in 1979 with a low of -12 degrees. The record precipitation, which is rain and melted snow, was .77 inches in 2004. In terms of snow, the most that was measured Jan. 1 was 6 inches in 1986.

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