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History of Coeur d'Alene cold waves

by RANDY MANN
| January 22, 2024 1:05 AM

Conditions this month have been some of the coldest and iciest across North Idaho in recent memory. Since the frigid weather began Jan. 12, the average high from that date for the following week through Jan. 18 has been 13.7 degrees in Coeur d’Alene. The average low for that seven-day period was -2.9 degrees, with five days reporting temperatures below the zero mark.

The four days from Jan. 12-15 were some of the coldest since the 1950s and 1960s. On Jan. 12, the low temperature was down to -5 degrees. On Jan. 13, Saturday morning, the mercury dropped to a record -17 degrees for the date. The old record was -8 degrees set back in 1950. Lows dropped to -5 degrees Jan. 14 with -7 degrees reported at Cliff’s station Jan. 15. The average low temperature for those four days was -8.5 degrees.

As I mentioned last week, Athol dropped to -18 degrees that Jan. 13 morning. It was -17 degrees at Rathdrum and -15 degrees at Dalton Gardens, Fernan Hill and the Coeur d’Alene Airport. It was -10 degrees in Spokane and the temperature dropped down to -20 degrees at Kellogg, -21 degrees at Pullman and a frigid -22 degrees at Spirit Lake and Deer Park on Jan. 13. The winds on that day also made for dangerous wind chill temperatures. Readings were down to around -40 degrees in the Coeur d’Alene region.

According to Cliff’s records dating back to 1895, the longest stretch of below zero days reported in Coeur d’Alene was 11 days that occurred from Jan. 16 through Jan. 26, 1930. The coldest morning was -13 degrees Jan. 17, with an average low during those 11 days of -9 degrees.

There was an eight-day stretch that occurred in January 1909 and January 1916. From Jan. 7-14, 1909, the average low temperature was -6 degrees. The coldest day during that year was Jan. 11 with a low of -14 degrees. In 1916, the average low from Jan. 11 through Jan. 18 was -7.4 degrees, with the coldest of -14 degrees on the 18th.

January of 1937 was a very frigid month across the Inland Northwest. Out of 31 days, 17 of them had temperatures drop to below zero. The coldest morning was -22 degrees Jan. 20. The average low for that month was -2.3 degrees. The following January in 1938 was much warmer, if you want to call it that, with an average low of 24.2 degrees. Certainly, a big difference from one year to the next. In January 1949, there were 18 days with lows below zero, but the average low for that month was 0.1 degrees.

One of the most intense cold waves in North Idaho was at the end of January 1950. From Jan. 28-31, the average low in Coeur d’Alene was an incredible -26.5 degrees. Jan. 30, 1950, was also the date of our record low temperature of -30 degrees. January of 1957 had six consecutive days with lows below -10 degrees in Coeur d’Alene. That occurred from Jan. 24-29 with an average low of -13.8 degrees.

February also had a stretch of frigid weather in our region. In 1933, there were seven days in a row with lows below the zero mark. In fact, Feb. 9 and 10, it was extremely cold with a -29 degree reading Feb. 9 followed by a low of -24 degrees Feb. 10. The average low for those seven days was -13.7 degrees. There was a 12-day period in 1936 when the average temperature from Feb. 7-18 had an average low of -12 degrees.

One of the last major cold waves in Coeur d’Alene, based on the records, was in January 1962. From Jan. 18-24, a period of seven straight days, low temperatures were below zero with an average reading of -9.7 degrees.

Of course, there were other cold waves in the 1970s and 1980s, but the ones listed from the 1930s through the 1960s are some of the longest and most intense in recorded history.

In terms of our local weather, the rest of the winter season is not expected to be nearly as cold as last week. We’ll have plenty of moisture this week, but most of it will come in the form of rain in the lower elevations with some snow in the higher mountains. The early to mid portion of February may see a better chance of snow across the region.

The normal snowfall for February in Coeur d’Alene is 11.9 inches with an average of 6.3 inches of snow in March. Over 10 inches of new snow fell from the latest storm, which takes Coeur d’Alene’s seasonal total to 26.2 inches for the season as of late Saturday, which is a little less than 20 inches below the normal to date. With normal snowfall from now through the end of the season, we’ll probably end up with a seasonal total around the mid-40s. El Niño is currently showing signs of weakening, so there’s a possibility we’ll end up close to that figure. Stay tuned.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.