Thursday, March 30, 2023

Wild weather in California

| January 9, 2023 1:06 AM

The wild weather experienced across many parts of the country in December has continued into January. Last month, North Idaho and the rest of the Inland Northwest endured one of the coldest months in recent memory. In addition to the cold, freezing rain and snow made it feel like an “old-fashioned” winter.

As of the weekend, Cliff’s station in northwestern Coeur d’Alene has picked up slightly less than 50 inches of snow. At the Spokane International Airport, about 35.5 inches of snow has fallen thus far for the 2022-23 season. The first week of January has been practically snowless in our region, but we should see occasional snow and rain shower activity for the rest of this week.

Last year on this date, Coeur d’Alene had slightly over 50 inches of snow. From Jan. 7 through Feb. 2, 2022, only a half-inch of snow was reported. Not much snow was seen last February as only 5.8 inches fell. Despite similar snowfall totals at this time in 2022 and 2023, the weather pattern toward the middle of this month is expected to be different when compared to last year.

Since late December, most of the major storms from the Pacific Ocean have been pushed to the south into California. Around the middle of the month, the storm track is expected to be shoved farther to the north that would bring more moisture into the northwestern part of the country. Colder air is also likely to filter into the region, therefore, there is an increasing chance of snow in Coeur d’Alene and the rest of the region.

The cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperature event, La Niña, has been weakening over the last several weeks. This may be one reason why many of the Pacific storms have been pushed to the south. However, the heavy rains in California are often more typical of a warmer El Niño event.

Speaking of the California rains, some of the totals reported have been nothing short of incredible. In downtown San Francisco, a whopping 10.33 inches of rain fell from Dec. 26, 2022, through Jan. 4. According to an article by, this was the second wettest 10-day period since weather records began in 1849. The wettest 10-day stretch occurred during the Civil War era when 14.37 inches fell between Jan. 8 and 17 in 1862.

Since the heavy rains began the day after Christmas, the San Francisco International Airport has measured close to 9 inches of rain, well above the normal of slightly less than 1.50 inches. The Oakland International Airport picked up 10.43 inches of rain from these systems as of early Saturday. In Sacramento, moisture totals for the season are near double the normal.

The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is the highest in about 10 years. The snowpack is near 150% of normal to the north to over 200% of normal to the south.

The heavy rains in the past several weeks in the lower elevations of California have produced some widespread flooding and power outages. More moderate to heavy rains are likely this week across the same regions of the Golden State. Some stations in the northern and central portions of the state could receive up to 6 to 12 inches of additional moisture by the middle of this week. More storms are forecast to move across California through the rest of this week, but the long-range computer models are indicating that the upper-level jet stream pattern may start changing to the drier side toward the middle to the end of the month.

On the other side of the U.S., we’ve heard about the record cold and snows in parts of the Northeast. The Buffalo International Airport had to deal with record lake-effect snows last month. The powerful pre-Christmas blizzard dumped over 40 inches of snow at the Buffalo airport and up to 60 inches in some outlying areas. The storm also resulted in Niagara Falls become partially frozen. According to Niagara Falls State Park, about 3,160 tons of water flow over the falls every second and drops at a speed of 32 feet per second. It would take tremendous cold to freeze over Niagara Falls.

However, there have been years when at least the surface of Niagara Falls was frozen. In 1883, 1911, 1932, 1977, 2019 and other years, temperatures were cold enough to at least freeze parts of Niagara Falls. One of the most interesting events was in 1911, when several researchers claim that Niagara Falls completely froze over. Many of the photos taken during that time were very dramatic with many people standing in the middle of the frozen falls, but it’s difficult to say whether Niagara Falls did completely freeze over.

The falls did completely stop flowing in 1848, but it was due to millions of tons of ice becoming lodged at the mouth of the Niagara River, which blocked the channel.

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Contact Randy Mann at

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