It’s been hard to say anything but “brrrr” so far this month. While two weeks have passed since we experienced record lows across the region, we only have one chip to put in the “above normal” temperature basket, which occurred last weekend when afternoon highs soared to near 70 degrees. Despite the brief swing of the pendulum in the other direction, average temperatures for the month are still more than 5 degrees below normal.
Often, one of the enjoyable parts of the fall season, are those days of Indian summer. Fall colors, coupled by sunshine and mild temperatures, make people want to get outdoors and enjoy the weather before things turn permanently chilly. We haven’t had the opportunity for one of those yet, however, as our sunny days have been chilly, while our warmest temperatures have been accompanied by cloudy skies.
While the consensus seems to be that Indian summer is a period of above normal temperatures in the fall – usually following the first freeze of the season – no one is sure of the exact origin of the phrase. It has been discovered in French literature dating to the late 1700s. The author Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur spoke of it as an “interval of calm and warmth” and a “tranquil atmosphere and general smokiness” which follows the rain. What does that have to do with Indians? There are many possible explanations for that as well, though none have been proven. Some say that this was the period of harvest for Indians, or that they used the dry, hazy weather as an opportunity for hunting or even for attacking whites before the harsh conditions of winter set in. It is also possible that early English immigrants equated Indian summer to a “fools” summer which would quickly revert back to more seasonal unsettled conditions.
Unsettled weather will likely be the rule around here for the next several days, with rain keeping afternoon temperatures well on the cool side of normal. Fortunately, overnight lows should stay above freezing, keeping any wintry weather at bay in the lower elevations. The average date for the first measurable snow (at least .10 inches), using the Spokane airport, is not for several more weeks on Nov. 12. The average date of seeing the first inch of snow doesn’t occur until Nov 19. Last year, the first measurable snow did not occur until Nov. 28. Of course by the end of the winter season of 2008-’09, the late start of the wintry weather was a mere memory after Spokane saw over 97 inches of snow. Coeur d’Alene came in at just over 145 inches.