A review of the strange year of 2019

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There’s no question that 2019 was another year of extremes across North Idaho and the rest of the world. With last year being so crazy weatherwise, Climatologist Cliff Harris put together a 2019 weather review of North Idaho. I would like to thank Cliff for his contribution to the feature below.

By Climatologist CLIFF HARRIS

Last year was the weirdest year weatherwise since local records began 125 years ago in 1895 in Coeur d’Alene.

Following a mild, almost snowless first half of January, a new six-week cycle began on Jan. 17 that produced all-time record snowfalls locally in February and early March across the region.

February saw an all-time record 56 inches of snow, easily smashing the previous record for the month of 39.5 inches observed in town during February of 1955.

Temperatures during February were nearly 10 degrees below normal, much colder than either December of 2018 or January of 2019. All of the precipitation during February of 2019 fell in the form of snow on 19 days, likewise a record for the month.

Early March was likewise cold and snowy across North Idaho. By the 13th, all of the month’s snowfall had fallen, which was 9.2 inches. Then came a new springlike cycle in the second half of March and all of April, which had the least snowfall ever since at least 1895 of just 0.2 inches.

The next six-week cycle from early May through mid June was a bit wetter and slightly warmer than usual with the season’s first 90-degree reading set on June 13.

The six-week early summer period extending through late July was a bit cooler and drier than normal overall, but we did observe the summer’s hottest afternoon of 97 degrees on Player Drive on July 23.

The late July through early September six-week period was a bit warmer and drier than usual but, fortunately, we didn’t see the smoke and wildfires of the past few late summer seasons.

There were just 10 afternoons during the summer of 2019 with temperatures of 90 degrees or above, 8 days fewer than the 125-year norm of 18 such hot days. Total precipitation during July and August of 2019 was 1.60 inches, 0.55 inches below normal, but well above the smoky summer of 2018 when we had 0.65 inches during July and August.

The first half of September was mild and mostly dry, but then came Old Man Winter months ahead of schedule during late September and much of the month of October.

An all-time record September snowfall of 1.1 inches in Coeur d’Alene broke the month’s previous mark of 1 inch in 1926 nearly a century ago. A record low daily maximum reading of 38 degrees was observed on Sept. 29 along with sub-freezing low temperatures.

October of 2019 had local weather conditions similar to a normal November. The mercury dipped to a record 14 degrees just prior to Halloween on October 29 on Player Drive and 16 degrees the next morning on Oct. 30. The 30-degree high on Oct. 29 was likewise a record for the date and the month of October.

A total of 5.5 inches of snow was measured at my station on Player Drive, but more than 7 inches of the white stuff was reported in downtown Coeur d’Alene between Oct. 26 and Oct. 29, like the month of September, another wintry snowfall record.

Farmers in neighboring Montana and the Dakotas saw subzero temperatures and upwards of 3 feet of snow in mid to late October. This early arrival of winter prevented farmers from harvesting spring wheat planting of their winter crops.

But, things quickly changed in the fickle world of weather extremes, when spring arrived more than three months ahead of schedule in a snowless mild November. The pattern continued for a record 44 days until we finally saw some snows in the lowlands on Dec. 11 that continued on-and-off, despite milder than normal temperatures through Dec. 31. The final day of 2019 had the heaviest snowfall at my station on Player Drive since last Feb. 15 of 4.7 inches, the first plowable snow in Coeur d’Alene of the 2019-20 season.

I certainly was disappointed to say the least that we didn’t see my predicted white Christmas in 2019 in downtown Coeur d’Alene. But, above 2,500 feet in Hayden and points north, these higher elevations did see enough snow for a white Christmas. It’s all about elevation, elevation, elevation. Pure and simple.

As far as total precipitation for 2019 is concerned, we ended up at 28.15 inches of rain and melted snow in Coeur d’Alene. That’s slightly above the average of 26.77 inches.

What’s next on the North Idaho weather horizon? Well, the chances of a snowier and perhaps colder than normal mid January through late February’s “leap year” day of Feb. 29 are, in my opinion, looking good (2020 to 1) for winter returning in earnest to Coeur d’Alene. In the past 125 years, most leap years have had above-normal snowfall at the end of February and this year should be no exception.

• • •

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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