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Downpour packs a wealth of hope

Fri., June 21, 2013, midnight

Much-needed water will aid crops, protect against fire danger

Drenching rain and record cold ushered out the last day of spring, but to some, this week’s weather represents a “million dollar rain,” arriving in time to nourish grain crops and dampen potential forest fires.

John Abatzoglou, assistant professor of geography at the University of Idaho, said he believes the rain is worth well more than a million bucks.

“This is very beneficial,” Abatzoglou said Thursday afternoon. “This is in just the nick of time.”

Rain that started Monday continued through Thursday and brought an inch of precipitation to Spokane. Even more rain fell in other parts of the region.

It arrived on the last day of an Inland Northwest spring that until this week was 2 inches below normal for the April-through-June period.

And it came shortly before the region enters its dry summer, Abatzoglou said.

Parched areas of the Columbia Basin and Palouse received enough rain at a critical time for wheat and other dryland crops. Spring storms are a key to the region’s natural bounty.

Abatzoglou said fire suppression is equally important because the soaking rain will prevent early season wildfires and the costs that come with them.

“This long-term, 72-hour event is going to go a long way to quash any early season fire threat,” he said.

The prolonged storm was caused by a large area of low air pressure that moved onshore Monday and stalled over the region. The low then acted like a pump moving moist, mild air from the south into its cooler air mass, Abatzoglou said.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for small streams in Pend Oreille, Bonner, Boundary and Shoshone counties late Wednesday and Thursday, for quick-rising water and the potential for landslides.

Thursday’s rain also brought record cold daytime temperatures.

Spokane International Airport had temperatures hovering between 48 and 49 degrees through 5 p.m. The record low maximum temperature for June 20 was 51 degrees in 1916.

That temperature was recorded just hours before the summer solstice at 10:04 p.m. on Thursday.

At least one daily precipitation record was set. Bonners Ferry recorded 1.8 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Thursday, breaking the record set in 1910.

Total rainfall through the storm exceeded 2 to 3 inches in some locales, including Quartz Peak near Mount Spokane.

In the Palouse, the two-day rainfall stood at a half-inch or more by Thursday morning with rain continuing to fall. Pullman/Moscow Regional Airport had 0.63 inches during two days for the period ending at 9 a.m.

In the Columbia Basin, Moses Lake saw about 0.80 inches from Tuesday morning through Thursday afternoon.

Good accumulations were reported at other locations across the region.

Rain is expected to taper off today, with partly cloudy skies on Sunday. The chance of showers increases again starting Sunday afternoon and lingers into the middle of next week.

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