Latest from The Spokesman-Review
As Idaho lawmakers head back to their districts for the weekend, some face perilous driving conditions across the state, bad enough that a few are deciding to spend the weekend in Boise. Meanwhile, enough snow has fallen around the state Capitol to allow construction of this stylish snowman with leafy arms, which is standing proudly on the Statehouse lawn near 8th and Jefferson streets.
Layers of fog and clouds decorate the skies over Boise this morning, where the overnight low dropped into the 30s, but highs today are expected to get up as high as 51 degrees. There's a 30 percent chance of rain today, rising to 90 percent tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service.
It's certainly possible that road conditions far from my front door could be quite different.
But at first glance, it would appear that children's prayers for a snow day off from school fell on deaf ears.
Perhaps their promises to "be good" and clean up their rooms in exchange for schools being closed today were not deemed credible.
Whoosh - and just like that, the season has changed. Rain came cascading down in Boise, and a big wind gust just knocked half the golden leaves off this tree. Best of all, some significant rain has been reported in the mountains across the state - raising hopes of a long-awaited end to this year's destructive wildfire season.
Gov. Butch Otter said today he's asked the Idaho Department of Fish & Game and the state Department of Environmental Quality to work up estimates of damage from this year's extensive forest fires, particularly the Mustang Complex and Halstead fires, which he noted have heavily impacted the Salmon River drainage, "where we've spent a lot of money on salmon restoration." Otter said he wants to get a handle on how ash and erosion from the fires are likely to damage salmon habitat once spring runoff hits. He also said he's gotten an initial estimate from DEQ that this year's wildfires put 1.7 million tons or more of pollutants into Idaho's air, and reactivated 2.5 million tons of mercury, releasing it back into the air.
WINTER SPORTS — The photo above comes today from Revelstoke Mountain Resort, a day's drive north in British Columbia, where the ski area operators were stoked to wake up and see the first snowfall of the season in the Canadian Rockies area.
Revelstoke Mountain is Canada’s Newest Ski Resort, claiming to have the most vertical in North America – 5620ft!
MOUNTAINEERING — Safely below the snowline, I was hiking in the Alps near Chamonix, France, last week when 9 climbers were killed by an avalanche on Mont Blanc, the highest peak in western Europe. It was particularly eery for me and my family, since we had just shared a train ride with a South Africa couple who had just climbed the peak — and we had shared breakfast on a previous day with a man who was headed up to climb.
The tragedy in bringing international attention to what appear to be increasing danger and unpredictibility in snow-country climbing and backcountry skiing.
Following the tragedy in the Alps as well as another on Mount McKinley, the New York Times has published this report citing veteran climbers pointing out that today’s conditions are combining to create a volatile highball of risk.
OUTDOOR WEATHER — It's June 6, 2012, and the folks at Schwetizer Mountain Resort above Sandpoint are reporting … SNOW.
Check out the mountain's video weather report about a twist that's keeping huckleberry blossoms in their buds.
I don't know how it is where you are or what it will be like a few minutes from now. But the fog I encountered while riding my bike to work this morning was the thickest I can recall in years.
I wonder how widespread it was.
I guess I could turn on one of the newsroom TVs and check out some Live Team Coverage of the conditions.
But I'm not THAT curious.
The soundtrack for my bike ride home this afternoon was bird chirping.
Seemed like way more than usual. It was loud, insistent and all around me.
And though I can't say for sure, it sounded to me as if they were commenting on the weather. Perhaps they were suggesting that today's version of spring was (not) for the birds.
A tweet from Katie Utehs/Krem expresses my sentiments exactly re: grapple currently falling outside my office window on Northwest Boulevard: "Mother nature you're killing me! What is this slush falling from the sky?" Is it time to sacrifice a local weather forecaster in the nearest volcano to see if we can get things changed around?
Question: What do you make of grapple/snow on March 26?
I’ve had many Press subscribers ask me recently to explain just how I measure the snowfall at my location on Player Drive in the northwestern corner of Coeur d’Alene. They also ask me why I seem to gauge more snow during a particular period or season than in their parts of town. First, we are at an elevation on Player Drive that’s nearly 100 feet higher than down near Lake Coeur d’Alene at the resort. The lake likewise tends to keep surrounding areas a bit warmer during the winter months, hence less snow. The second reason that we frequently see more of the white stuff in my part of town is that are are in a ‘snowbelt corridor’ that runs from just north of I-90 northward through Rathdrum and Twin Lakes/Cliff Harris, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (2007 Kathy Plonka SR file photo of Cliff Harris)
Question: How would you rate Winter 2011-12 as compared to other Inland Northwest winters?
Here is Ashley Steinhart's forecast for March.
"In like a horde of ravening ice weasels, out like a drooling moose."
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
The winter’s first real snowfall blankets the city, with more predicted, and for a moment the flakes have stopped falling. A window in the weather has opened and the time is right.
I pick up the snow shovel that is kept beside the back door this time of year and it doesn’t take long to find a rhythm. As I work my way down the driveway, the shovel slides cleanly over the concrete, scooping up mounds of the fresh white powder. Up and down the street other people have come outside, moving like dark shadows against the brightness of the snow. A few call out to a neighbor but most, like me, work silently.
The city’s big plows push up the main street, scraping against the asphalt as they clear the streets for the morning commute. I catch a glimpse of the flashing yellow lights as they speed past at the corner and then the quiet returns.
When shoveling snow, when working or exercising in any way, it’s hard not to marvel at the intricate mechanics of the human body. The heart pumps , the mind directs, the muscles obey, the bones bear weight and the process repeats so quickly and smoothly we forget that we are, at our core, a living machine. Built to work.
The cold air bites at my face and my fingers begin to ache so I stop and pull off my gloves, tucking my hands under my coat, pressing them against my stomach. My body, warmed by the exercise, comforts itself and soon I am back at work and my mind plays over people and projects and problems as I push forward, and, as always seems to happen when my hands are busy and my mind is free, there is a clarity that too often escape me indoors. I am startled when an answer, a solution or simple resolution that has been eluding me, pops suddenly into my head.
The snow sparkles like diamonds scattered over the ground in front of me, catching the reflection of the single lightbulb that hangs over the garage and I am reminded that with each shovelful I am lifting and tossing away more tiny, singular, crystals than I could ever count. But it is only the ones that catch the light for an instant and glint in the night that stand out.
It is, when you think about it, the same with ideas and and memories and shooting stars. There are more around and within us than we can ever imagine and yet we only glimpse the precious few that streak through the deep quiet of solitude and, without warning, light up the dark.
(See more of my work at my CAMera photo/travel blog)
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Good morning, Netizens…
It's here! It's here!
After nearly a week spent forecasting doom and gloom about winter snowfall coming and destroying most lifeforms in the Pacific Northwest, the snow actually began arriving, bringing with it winter, just yesterday. Almost immediately the streets began more closely resembling skating rinks than public thoroughfares. Before anyone construes that I am casting aspersions on the good character of Spokane Public Works Department snow removal technicians, much less our new Mayor, it typically takes a few days of snow piled hock-deep on the middle of our street before I begin growling to myself.
We haven't gotten that far YET. We have a few people who haven't learned (or remembered) how to drive on snowy roads. A four-wheel-drive does not automatically give you the right to drive at ludicrous speeds on icy streets anytime of your choosing. There is a law for that: it is called gravity, and you might do well to heed it before driving too fast on the roads today.
Egads, it's winter. Finally. Now everybody can quit bitching about how we haven't had any winter weather.
Snow update: Bogus Basin has gotten 9 inches of new snow, for a base of 12 inches and a summit depth of 16 inches. There's no announcement yet as to a possible opening for the local, non-profit ski resort that's gone dry so far this year, but one could come tonight during the "Get Louder for Powder" party on the Basque Block in downtown Boise; mountain supporters are being asked to wear ski clothes and goggles to the 5-8 p.m. bash of live music, food, beer and wine. It's still snowing in Boise, too; there's about 3 inches of wet snow on the ground outside the state Capitol. And at noon, Brundage Mountain at McCall reported 15 inches of new snow since 5 p.m. yesterday, 24 inches in the last 24 hours.
A) Nippy and overcast. B) Sunny and unseasonably warm. C) Snow. D) Blue skies, cold. E) Rain. F) Other.
Broke my already erratic viewing boycott to check out how the local TV news would handle the weather.
Would they be in full "Storm Team" mode?
Wasn't disappointed. All three led with the news that it still might snow.
It's good to know that there are some things you can count on in this world.
Good morning, Netizens…
I knew, as soon as I crept forth from my bed this morning, that during the early morning hours, some of that wretched snow would fall. Both my wife and I suffer in later life with what I call “weather joints”; whenever the weather is going to change, particularly if it involves moisture in any form or at least a change in the barometric pressure, our joints remonstrate with us about it, more often than not in advance. We both have known this weekend was going to be a meteorological “busy” time, with several weather fronts moving through the area.
An old shoulder injury and a faulty kneecap both were taking front row seats as soon as I hit the deck, muttering such inanities as, “Here's a little pain to start you on your way, Sunny Dave” and “You deserve this, you know!”
Our overnight half-inch snowfall contribution wasn't all that much, although the gusty winds last evening contributed its fair share of downed trees, power lines in the streets and general mayhem, most of which appears to have been repaired overnight. Areas of the South Hill and the outlying areas of Spokane appeared to have been hit the hardest, and although we in the near north side did not appear to have lost power not even once. The one positive note about last evening is that all the leaves from our pair of aspen trees that hadn't already hit the ground did so, and the leaves that had fallen were neatly moved into the neighbor's lawn, thus negating the need for us to rake leaves. Good move, Mother Nature, and thank you!
Today is the first day of the annual Fall Folk Festival, but this year, unlike nearly a decade in the past, neither of us nor our granddaughters will be in attendance for a remarkable number of reasons, a few of which I will elaborate upon at another time in the near-future. The Fall Folk Festival is a good show and it's still free which matters a great deal, even here in budgetary-challenged Spokane.
Of course, our Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, has announced to the news media that she is retiring by January. All things being equal, you will pardon me if I rebut her comments with an admonition for her not to let the door out hit her in the butt. Of course, as always, your opinions and ideas are worthy. As I always say, it's another day in paradise! Try to ignore the snow.
It is snowing - snowing! - right now in the Boise foothills. It's not sticking, but the timing is perfect for today's start of Boise's big annual Ski Swap, which opens at 5 p.m. today at the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, also known as "Expo Idaho." The swap, which benefits the Bogus Basin Ski Education Foundation, runs through Sunday; it costs $3 to get in, and is the place to find deals on new-to-you gear, from skis and snowboards to helmets and outfits, or unload your kids' outgrown gear and find replacements.
Sellers can take their gear in (11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today or 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday) to check it in for sale; the swap takes a 25 percent commission on items sold. The swap is open to buyers from 5-10 tonight (folks line up for the opening); 10-8 Saturday and 10-3 on Sunday.
When my daughter, now 21, was little, she used to call this a "Boise, Idaho rainbow sunrise," and to this day, the phrase comes to mind when I see one. This morning's is gorgeous; it's chilly, just 34 degrees, but something to see.
Each year, the appearance of a single flame-red tree, amid a sea of green leafiness in Boise's North End, signals the start of fall for me; I first spotted it two days ago, but this was my first chance to snap a picture. Already, the foliage around it is starting to take on glints of gold.
I was out of town the first part of this week, and caught something special Wednesday morning: The year's first snowfall at Lake Tahoe, shown here. After our warm, summery September, the season really is changing now, as Boise's chilly rain today attests. It must be time…
La Niña, which contributed to extreme weather around the globe during the first half of 2011, has re-emerged in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is forecast to gradually strengthen and continue into winter. Forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have upgraded last month’s La Niña Watch to a La Niña Advisory.
NOAA will issue its official winter outlook in mid-October, but La Niña winters often see drier than normal conditions across the southern tier of the United States and wetter than normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley.
“This means drought is likely to continue in the drought-stricken states of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. “La Niña also often brings colder winters to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Plains, and warmer temperatures to the southern states.”
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
The day before I left Spokane and caught an early flight to Germany, the weather was wet and cold. More like late winter than late spring. Everywhere I went people were grumbling about the rain.
“Sorry you have to be out in this,” the usually-cheerful student at the coffee-shop told me. I just shrugged. I’ve given up trying to convince people I don’t mind the rain. There are times, in fact, like when I travel, that I prefer it.
Rain changes the landscape. Especially in a beautiful old city. Colors fade and stone buildings settle into shades of gray like an old black and white photograph. Cobblestones are more pronounced, glossed by the moisture.
When the sun shines we lose our focus. We squint and turn our faces up to the sky. We are tourists, even in our own cities; driven to get out and play. We wilt in the heat and fret about the crowd and the irritations of too many people in tight quarters.
Rainy days set a mood. In the right light, the scene could be set in any time. Old and new blend and blur. It’s easy to imagine things that would, in the bright light of sunshine, be implausible.
I arrived in Leipzig, Germany, the city of Bach and Schumann and Wagner and Mendelssohn, just as an unseasonable rainy spell set in. Skies would pour, then clear, then pour again. Rain fell off and on as I wandered around the city. As they went about their day, people huddled under umbrellas, heads down, until the sun came out again.
Leipzig is the place where Johann Sebastian Bach spent the last 25 years of his life. Where he raised a family and lived his life as both busy academic and musician.
The sun was out when I toured the Bach museum and in a darkened “treasure room” looked down on a cantata written in his own hand. I saw the house where his family’s closest friends lived, the place where the only remaining organ played by Bach is housed. Where a chest decorated with his family crest is on display.
I looked down on his grave - or, what scholars are reasonably certain is his grave - in St. Thomas Church. I studied the statue and all the artifacts, but it wasn’t until the skies clouded again that I felt like had found the man.
In the spell cast by the rain, I could imagine him, worried, distracted, his mind on everyday irritations and ordinary concerns, barreling down the same narrow streets or striding across the square. It wasn’t hard to picture him dodging puddles as he walked, turning over in his mind all the worry and aggravation of work and home, lost in thought, focusing on numbers, budgets, a choir of rowdy boys; juggling the burden of a large family or the purchase of instruments for the orchestra or consumed by the composition of a cantata.
I ducked into one of the small shops looking for chocolates to bring home. The clerk, realizing I was an American, apologized for the weather.
“Yesterday was so much more beautiful,” she told me. “Perhaps tomorrow will be better.”
“Oh, no, today was perfect” I said, taking the shopping bag full of sweet souvenirs for my family back home. “I saw exactly what I was hoping to see.”
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
Would you believe that this is Lightning Safety Awareness Week? Really. It runs from June 19-25. In observance of the annual week, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety is urging attention to surge protectors and grounding, saying lightning strikes are responsible for 5 percent of all insured property losses annually and caused $1 billion in insured losses in 2010. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service in Lincoln, has put up a special web page about lightning risks, saying lightning killed an average of 55 people a year in the last 30 years.
It's amazingly calm and mild in Boise this morning, with only a few puddles testifying to last night's wild weather - massive amounts of lightning, hard, soaking rains, and whipping wind gusts. We lost power at 10 p.m., which meant TV and computer were silenced in favor of watching the incredible lightning show by candlelight for the next hour and a half. The Boise Police reported two lightning-caused fires totaling 12 acres. "At about 11 p.m., as firefighters had the fires both under control, fire crews had to retreat to their vehicles for their own safety as another very active storm cell brought numerous lightning strikes to the area," reports BPD spokeswoman Lynn Hightower. "Fortunately the storm also brought moderate to heavy rainfall. Crews were clearing from both fires by midnight."
The Idaho Statesman reported that a Garden City man was struck by lightning while standing in the front doorway of his home, touching a metal screen door frame; he was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Valerie Mills, a meteorologist and senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Boise, said there were about 50 lightning strikes recorded in Ada County, the fifth-most in the last 10 years. "So yeah, it was a big night," she said. The violent storm was kicked off by Boise's first really hot day of the year, which wasn't a record but hit 95 degrees. "We had warming below, and cooling aloft," Mills said. "We also had moisture. That added instability, and the moisture that we had was just the ingredient that was needed to trigger those thunderstorms." It wasn't the typical Idaho rainstorm - a few drops, a lot of wind, and it's over. Instead, the whopper of a storm was enough to clear out worsening air quality, water everyone's lawns and put on a big light show. "It was quite a day for Ada County, in fact other areas around too, in southeastern Oregon and Southwest Idaho," Mills said.
That really shouldn't be news, considering that today is June 21st, the official first day of summer. But it's been such a long, long wait through such an unseasonably cool, wet spring! Now the sun is shining, the roses are blooming, the trails are drying out, and at sunrise today, the rainbows were dancing in the spray from the windsurfers and kitesailors up on Lucky Peak lake. It's about time!
Not everyone understood what I was saying about Spokane TV news and anchor-team performances regarding the weather.
But Slice reader Alison Duke, who doesn't mind cool temps, did.
"I've even written to the stations to ask that they just report the weather, not how they FEEL about it. No response, of course."
Good evening, Netizens…
Due to the hockey semi-finals, KHQ-TV broadcast their evening news at 8:00 PM tonight. Ironically, they let their Success by Six food drive supersede the news, as at 7:14 PM this evening, parts of North Spokane were hit by a serious regional rain squall, complete with lightning strikes, hail, torrential rains and gusty winds. At the peak of the storm, which lasted approximately one-half hour, hail stones the size of cats-eye marbles were bouncing off the streets in quantity; standing out on the patio we had to yell to be heard over the raucous noise of the hail stones hammering on the patio roof overhead. The sidewalks and street were so white with the hail it looked like an early winter snow.
Fearing the worst for the Virtual Garden's frail tomato plants just recently planted, we went and looked as soon as the hail stopped falling. We just had installed half a dozen new tomato cages, which we purchased for a pittance from Habitat for Humanity, and it must have been divine providence, because those metal cages appear to have deflected most of the damaging hail away from the tiny tomato plants, although it didn't hesitate about removing leaves from several trees nearby.
Since that time the sewers on both sides of the street blocked up, flooding the area with water up to the bottoms of cars parked on both sides of the street, but we are hardly alone in that. Portions of Market, Hamilton, Francis, Division and Monroe— almost anyplace there is a hill, the sewers rapidly overflowed with knee-deep water, creating a minor bit of havoc with city traffic.
Since we couldn't find any city employees to help deal with the flooded sewer, we cleaned the flotsam and jetsam out of the sewer, and it gave a might burp of appreciation as the water once more went cascading down the drain. Within minutes it was as if the street had never been flooded; within a half an hour, the hail had all but vanished.
It was just another wonderful evening in Paradise. Of course, your results may differ.