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Jim Kershner: Keep it moderate, Mr. Niño

News item: A developing El Niño system in the Pacific could bring a milder winter to the Inland Northwest.

An open letter to El Niño:

Greetings! We here in Spokane would like to welcome you to our part of the country. We invite you to stay as long as you would like. We have always been big fans of yours, Mr. Niño, especially of your generosity, your warmth and your lack of moistness.

We are especially big fans of your moderation when it comes to cold and snow. Some other weather systems that we could mention – the ones that came to visit last year and the year before – have absolutely no concept of boundaries, of reasonable limits and “knowing when to back the hell off,” if you know what we mean. In other words, they were like inconsiderate, rude visitors who didn’t even help with the dishes. You, on the other hand, have almost always been a gentleman.

We are aware that not everyone feels this way about you. Californians, we have heard, have their issues with your penchant for causing mudslides and avalanches. South Americans, we understand, are not crazy about your storms and devastation.

Fine. They can be that way if they want. Yet let me assure you that you will get a rapturous reception in Spokane this winter because – well, because we’ve missed you more than you can imagine.

The last time you came to visit in your moderate form – our favorite form – you brought about 20 inches of snow with you to Spokane. That’s just about the right amount of snow, don’t you think? Enough to have a nice little white Christmas, enough to make the snow tires worth the investment, but not enough to turn our little city into Lapland or Spitsbergen.

You know how much snow those other, rude visitors brought last year? 97.7 inches. Can you imagine the gall? We had to fight to get to work every day – through a system of snow tunnels. We had to crank up the snowblower every morning – to clear our living rooms. People were skiing through Riverfront Park – and tripping over the Clocktower.

Yet on many of your most-pleasant visits, Mr. Niño, we’ve had nice warm wet winters down here in the valleys but enough beautiful snow in the mountains for those of us who like to ski and snowshoe (and drink water). That’s what we’re hoping you can do for us again this winter: a warm wet winter in town and a nice snowy winter in the mountains.

Sometimes – and we don’t mean this as a criticism, so don’t get mad and dump a windstorm on our heads – you do tend to get a little carried away. Admit it, Mr. Niño, you do. There was that time you brought so little snow to Mt. Spokane that they had to cancel a cross-country ski race in February. Then there are those times when you cause those obnoxious, foggy, air-stagnation inversions.

So all we ask, as you visit us this year, is that you refrain from developing into what meteorologists call a “strong” El Niño or “weak” El Niño. A “moderate” El Niño would be just fine.

Meanwhile, do not hesitate to let us know what we can do to prolong your stay here in the Northwest. Yes, we realize that – in exchange for a mild winter here – you might be compelled to unleash a hellish winter in California.

But after what we’ve put up with the last two years? Those Californians can just fend for themselves.

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