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Big chill moves in for May

Dust storms, wind storms, torrential rains, thunder and freezing temperatures helped to usher in the first week of May. Last Monday’s fierce winds resulted in road closures, downed trees, power outages, and roof damage. Unlike damaging winds from a passing thunderstorm, these strong winds were widespread, and were associated with a 165 mph jet stream, strong cold front, and the accompanying tight pressure gradient over the entire Inland Northwest. Sustained winds between 35 mph and 45 mph were common in the lower elevations, while winds topped 80 mph on exposed ridges in the mountains. Peak wind gusts measured locally included 55 mph in Spokane, 59 mph in the Spokane Valley, and 60 mph in Coeur d’Alene.

The first week of May was not only windy, but it was downright chilly. Temperatures were below normal the entire week and overnight lows dipped below freezing in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene on May 5. Heavy snows fell in higher elevations.

Someone asked why a freeze warning was not issued locally, when there was one for southeastern Washington and the Lewiston area. Freeze warnings are only issued during the growing season, which doesn’t officially begin here until May 14. Fortunately, the milder weather that has returned this weekend looks like it will stick around through next week. Though I didn’t see any significant warm-ups in the computer models, seasonable temperatures can be expected. Normal highs this time of year are in the middle 60s, with normal lows in the lower 40s.

Looking way out into the future, according to the Climate Prediction Center, not only is El Niño weakening, but some computer models are showing the possibility of another La Nina developing … just in time for next winter! Of course not all La Niñas are the same strength, and not every La Niña winter brings record snows to the Inland Northwest. But, folks who watched dust collect on their brand new snow blowers this past winter, and skiers and snowboarders who would have liked a bit more powder, may have something to get excited about by next fall. I’ll keep you posted!

Reach Michelle Boss at weatherboss@