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Spokane sets new record for lack of rainfall

Seen from the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza, the smoky red sun sets near Our Lady of Lourdes cathedral in Spokane Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. In the foreground is the reader board of an STA bus waiting at the plaza. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Seen from the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza, the smoky red sun sets near Our Lady of Lourdes cathedral in Spokane Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. In the foreground is the reader board of an STA bus waiting at the plaza. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

As fires continue to burn through the tinder-dry West, and with zero percent precipitation forecast for days to come, Spokane appeared certain to mark a new milestone Saturday night. At 74 days, the city reaches its longest dry spell on record Sunday.

Nor does that spell appear likely to break soon. While light showers could fall in the mountains and even some lowland areas of the region as early as Friday, the first chance for real, measurable rain appears unlikely before next Sunday evening, Sept. 17, said KHQ-TV Weathercaster Ryan Overton.

If so, the new record will stand at 81 days – nearly three months without recorded precipitation.

And even that stretch could be pushed further.

“The pattern has been that rain approaches, but as it gets close, the systems drift to the north,” missing Spokane, Overton said.

Precipitation records have been kept since the late 1800s. The previous record for longest dry spell was set exactly a century ago, and nearly to the day, with rain capping the spell on September 5, 1917.

Sunday’s marker closes out a week that also saw record-low air quality, with measurements by the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency in the “hazardous” range for four straight days ending Thursday.

Happily, strengthening winds from over the Cascades dispelled some of the lingering smoke Saturday, and will likely continue to do so today, Overton said. Air quality improved steadily Saturday until it hovered in the “moderate” range at 7 p.m. – the first time all week to reach comparably favorable levels.

Those winds are forecast to dissipate Monday, opening the way for wildfire smoke from the dozens of regional blazes to again descend, Overton said.

Temperatures over the next several days are expected to rise slightly, with highs in the mid- to upper-80s Monday, then dropping slightly Tuesday, according to the Spokane National Weather Service.

Despite the record-setting dry spell, overall rainfall for the area is surprisingly close to average. That’s due to another record set this year – in April, Spokane broke a record for its wettest season (measured October to April) since measurements began in 1881.


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