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Snowy month close to a record

If you thought you shoveled a lot in December, you’re right.

December brought the most days with measured snowfall in a single month since January 1969, the year many old-timers claim was the worst winter ever in the Inland Northwest.

Snow fell in Spokane last month on 18 days, compared to the 20 days of snowfall in January 1969.

Two other years since then had snowy months – November 1985 and December 1996, each of which had 16 days of snow. Those two months are also renowned for severe weather.

Fortunately, last month’s snow came in smaller amounts in Spokane. The deepest on any one day was 1.9 inches.

Elsewhere, heavier snowfall was reported last weekend in the Palouse and the mountains of the central Idaho Panhandle – a trend that started earlier in the season and apparently was caused by storms that moved onshore, then circulated eastward across the Inland Northwest.

Wallace reported a foot of new snow Monday. Sandpoint and Clark Fork, Idaho, each had 6 inches. Asotin, in southeast Washington, had 6.5 inches. The trace amount of snow that fell Sunday in Spokane did not qualify as one of the snowy days last month.

Heavy snowfall is also being seen in the mountains. Silver Mountain ski resort at Kellogg reported 10 inches of new snow Monday morning. That combined with existing snow to build an 86-inch pack at the summit and 42 inches halfway down the slope.

Similar totals are being reported at other ski areas in the region.

Ron Miller, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane, said the mountain snow- packs are healthy for this time of year but still short of record levels.

Wind on Sunday across Whitman County blew drifting snow and closed several highways temporarily, including U.S. Highway 195 between Pullman and the Idaho state line. They reopened midday Monday. Miller said the string of snowy days is going to end temporarily with a shift in the weather pattern. Temperatures in the mid- to upper-30s should cause rain or a mix of snow and rain beginning Wednesday night and into the weekend. The snow on the ground now should remain, he said.

“We are only looking at a brief warm-up, and even then it isn’t going to be a marked warm-up,” he said.

The 20.1 inches of snow that fell in December at Spokane International Airport brings the season total to 23 inches.

Melted down, the snow in December held 3.72 inches of water, helping close a precipitation deficit for 2007. The year ended with slightly less than 14 inches of precipitation, compared with a normal rain and snow melt of 16.7 inches over the past 30 years.

“It was just what we needed,” Miller said.

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