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Long-range weather predictions spell good news for NW skiers, river runners

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.”

Leipzig: Back to Bach

(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 catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Turns out this is ‘Lightning Safety Awareness Week’ - really

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.

Last night’s whopper of a storm was fifth-biggest lightning show in a decade

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.

Summer (finally) arrives in Boise

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!

Re: Friday’s Slice

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." 

Nasty squall line hits North Spokane…

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.

 

Dave

Be careful out there

The weather today is cold, wet, windy and miserable. But more than that, it's a bit dangerous out there. Not only are local rivers and lakes approaching flood stage, but there is some standing water in some areas that can surprise an unwary driver. This morning there was a large lake across the northbound lanes of Pines Road across from High Nooner. I saw a big truck hit it going fairly fast and huge curtains of water were thrown in the air higher than the truck. The Washington Department of Transportation is advising that there is water over the freeway near the Barker exit. And I just heard a report over the scanner about someone in the Airway Heights area who got electrocuted when working near a power line. Thankfully he doesn't appear to be very badly injured. I vote we all stay inside where it's warm and dry.

Sunny w/50% Chance Of Anxiety

On May days here in the 1970s, I didn’t worry much when I looked out the window of my morning high school classes and saw the pouring rain. I knew that by the time school ended in the afternoon, the sun would be in the sky. Perfect weather for our bike rides through Riverside State Park or for walks in Audubon Park. Back then, we could easily predict the spring and summer weather in Spokane. May? Rain in the morning, followed by afternoon clearing. Memorial Day? Fifty-fifty chance of rain. June? Don’t go to camp; it always rains. Fourth of July? See Memorial Day. July and August? Mostly hot weather, interspersed with glorious thunderstorms. But I’m no longer predicting spring-winter weather, because the weather patterns I grew up seem to have vanished. I miss them/Rebecca Nappi, SR. More here. (Spokesman-Review illustration)

Question: Do you miss predictable weather in the Inland Northwest?

Bringing the heat

You can be puzzled by the reasoning behind our area's politics.

And a case could be made that any place shaped by both Northwest smugness AND Seattle envy (sure, sure, you never feel that) is bound to be a little nuts.

But the No. 1 craziest thing about life in the Spokane area is the near-universal assumption that absolutely everyone here craves hot weather.

  

Water, water, everywhere…

There's even some snow mixed in this morning here in the Boise foothills, in this spring that still doesn't seem to have sprung. Here, the rain on my window yesterday afternoon turned the green Boise spring landscape into an impressionist painting. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, year-to-date precipitation is well above average in every basin in Idaho, from 119 percent in the Boise basin to 139 percent in the Bruneau. Plus, the "snow-water equivalent," the measure that shows the depth of water in the snowpack if it were melted, is running even higher - from a statewide low of 113 percent of normal in the Big Lost River basin to a whopping 326 percent of normal in the Weiser River basin; that shows the risk of flooding…

Tornadoes Assault in Every Direction

April in the South is peak tornado season. Yesterday, killer storms swept through Alabama killing dozens, destroying lives and wiping out entire communities.

 

   It’s mid-April. The big forsythia I planted in my back yard is finally blooming. Jonquils have pushed up through the chilly soil.

   Spring comes quietly to the Northwest. In other parts of the country it is the prettiest time of the year, but there is a darker side to the season.

   Killer storms.

   If you’ve ever spent a spring or summer in the central and southern states, the region known as the Tornado Belt, you’ve probably experienced the dramatic clash of cold air sweeping down from the north and warm, moist air rising up from the Gulf of Mexico.

   You’ve been in tornado country.

   I grew up in the South and the first thing one learns about tornadoes is that they aren’t a single sensory experience. They overwhelm, assaulting from every direction.

   First, you can see bad weather coming. The sky lowers. Dark clouds build overhead and everything takes on a greenish cast. The breeze disappears and the tallest trees are still. Even the birds fall silent.

   Flickering television screens show anxious forecasters pointing to ominous radar images and tracing the path of the storm.

   You can feel the storm before it arrives. The air hangs over you, heavy and oppressive. The humidity is smothering.

   Tornados have a strange perfume. They are scented with ozone, a trace of flowering shrubs and other odors trapped in the wind. Tornadoes smell like the basement, the bathroom or the closet. Wherever you’ve run for shelter.

   A tornado has a voice. The sound begins with the sudden, piercing wail of sirens that send a warning across town. It’s a terrifying, nerve-shattering sound, loud enough to wake you; to get your attention and make you look up from your desk at work; to be heard over the car radio or the television in the den. Loud enough to make you move. Fast.

   Twisters bring the sound of rain lashing against the roof; wind whipping through the leaves, stripping them from the branches. They bring the sharp stinging sound of pine needles striking like javelins. The thudding of your pulse as you gather up the children, snatching blankets and teddy bears and sippy cups of juice to see you through the wait.

   They are a whirlwind of crashing, banging and shattering sounds.

   Survivors always say that the tornado, when it arrives, sounds like a freight train passing overheard.

   Tornados taste like fear.

   The thing about tornadoes is that, like so many of the things that scare us the most, they are random. They strike, skip, strike and skip again. There’s no way to predict where they will land or who will be in harm’s way.

   And when they swarm, you can’t fight them. You can only hide and hope for the best.

   It’s easy to find fault with the place where you live. And Spokane is no exception. Everyone has his or her own list of what would make this a better place to be.

   But we should be grateful for at least one thing. Springtime in this part of the country may be slow to arrive, but it is relatively meek when it gets here. We don’t have to search the sky with anxious eyes, or listen for the sound of danger. We can go to sleep at night without worrying that the roof will blow away and trees will be uprooted.

   Sure, storms come. And then they pass. At best, the grass is a little greener. At worst the creek is a little higher.

   But our homes, the places that shelter us, are still standing.

   And when the sun comes up, we’re still here.

 

This essay was adapted from an earlier column. Cheryl-Anne Millsap's 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 catmillsap@gmail.com

March Flies on Chilly Wings

    The car swooped down on the empty parking spot like a bird of prey, flying the length of one car, then reversing and capturing the open space with one maneuver. The driver’s door opened and a woman stepped out, taking care not to dip her high heels in the oily puddle left from melting snow and the morning’s rain.


    She stepped up onto the curb, snapping open a pocket umbrella against the blustery wind, and peered down at the face of the parking meter.


    March, the lion’s month, played with the woman, pushing back the edge of her umbrella like the brim of a hat, threatening to take it away and toss it down the rain-slick sidewalk, teasing open her raincoat, stinging her stockinged legs with tiny pellets of frozen rain.


    With one hand she dug deeply into her purse, searching for coins, the fee for holding her place, a tax for standing still for exactly one and one half hours. The soft brown leather bulged where she felt for change, pushed out here, then there, in side pockets and deep into the corners where a quarter might hide under pens and pencils, receipts and breath mints.


    One by one, she found what she needed and out came the woman’s hand to feed the meter little bites of time. The last coin slipped out of her fingers and fell to the ground. Dancing a jig of frustration, she shifted her purse, tucking it under the arm that held the umbrella that threatened to escape, and picked up the coin with cold fingers.

    Paid in full, she reached into her pocket and found her keys and aimed the remote at the car. “Stay,” she seemed to be telling the vehicle as she pushed the lock button. The car chirped its reply.
As she turned to walk away, the fickle wind turned as well. Now, instead of teasing, flipping her umbrella and snapping at the hem of her coat, tossing her scarf into her face, it snuck up from behind her, pushing her down the sidewalk blowing her hair into her eyes and tucking her raincoat between her legs as she rounded the corner.

    The car – perched like a bird on a wire, off duty and at rest - waited, engine cooling, wipers idled and lights off. The meter, the master of everything between two white lines painted on asphalt, waited too. Ticking away the seconds until the woman returned.


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 catmillsap@gmail.com

Extreme cold…

Good evening, Netizens…

While the talking heads of local television weather forecasting were prattling among themselves this morning about how bitterly cold it is outside, I cannot help but wonder how many of them have been in Northern Minnesota during a really cold winters day. Whenever someone mutters something about how bitterly cold it is here in Spokane, typically when the temperature hovers just as or below zero, I cannot help but remember a morning years ago when I was driving from Northern Minnesota to Chicago. It wasn't, by any means, the first time I had spent a night in a motel where the nightly temperature dropped below thirty degrees below zero and where smart travelers always gratefully accepted the option of plugging our vehicle block heaters in, otherwise our vehicles might not start the next morning. Since I had already made several runs to Alaska in the winter, I knew most of this. In the parlance of long-haul truck driving, the pay for driving either Minnesota or Alaska in the winter was well worth it, considering they always paid well for the frozen fingers, the number of times you had to chain up/unchain, and the number of times you had to out wait a blizzard in some god-forsaken restaurant with greasy food and tasteless coffee.

However, the mental image that has lingered in my mind all these many years was a morning quite like this morning in far-off Minnesota hauling sacks of bark dust out of Northern Minnesota with the temperature sitting below minus thirty degrees. As I glanced up at my mirror, I could see a cloud of exhaust smoke from my twin pair of pipes that reached back nearly ten miles behind me, still hovering in the air. Despite the absolutely frigid temperature that morning, there was not a breath of wind, and each vehicle I saw on the road that morning left a similar tail behind them, all except for a single Volkswagen Beetle that was braving the cold. No one I have spoken with has ever explained why the Beetles didn't leave contrails behind them.

In that morning so long ago, with the full moon setting dimly in the west as the sun glared bitterly across the snow-crusted flatlands of Minnesota, as with each passing mile I drew closer to places still fond in my heart in those days, I couldn't help but notice as I came further south, my twin contrails had all but dissipated, as if they were never there to begin with.

But if I closed my eyes but for a second, put away the mesmerizing sounds of 18 wheels on the frozen roadbed, I could still see those twin contrails extending out behind my truck, and for a time there, I knew it had truly been cold.

 

Dave

Life in Spokane in the rear view mirror…

Good evening, Netizens…

I have crawled from, beneath my rock to peer at the snow ratcheting from the sky just in time to receive an e-mail from Marty advising me that the temperature in Arizona, where he is visiting, is 65 degrees and sunny. My immediate response to MHibbs was to tell him to beat feet for home so he can join us in our suffering.

Just when we thought we had seen the end of winter, it has arrived once again and, once more, Mayor Queen Mary of Spokane, citing the City Budget, will ignore the need for snow removal until the Big Thaw hits us once again. Then we will get to deal once more with the cratars in our streets. Ah, life in Spokane!

Dave

Mess and mayhem in Spokane…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

It began snowing on the Lower Sourth Hill at approximately 10:00 AM and it took less than an hour for the streets and the freeway of Spokane to degenerate into a bumper car race. Two of three hills I drove over were largely impassable, and the freeway was largely closed between the Argonne and the Hamilton Street exits with multiple fender-benders lining both sides of the roadway. KHQ-TV put the carnage on the freeway at 15 vehicles, but given the number police, fire and ambulances in attendance it truly was hard to tell.

Nevada Street hill had its own count of slide-offs, and the backups caused by that only added to the confusion. Expecting this, I wisely took a side street and made it back home safely.

Why, oh why do we keep revisiting this same inept scenario, with ample warning of foul weather approaching, with snow predicted, and the hours after the storm arrives our streets and roadways degenerate into mayhem? I do not claim to have understanding, nor can I ascertain the reasons why our local government continues to allow this scenario to play out, over and over again.

However, I know it is unacceptable.

Dave

Oh, my, look at that sky…

Wild weather, fog, clouds and flashes of blue sky combined to bring this sunset over Boise this evening, as the rain-pelted snow on the ground turns to slush…

Free at last!

Good morning, Netizens…


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God we’re free at last!


At approximately 3:45 AM PST this morning a road grader of unknown ancestry arrived on Morton Street accompanied by a city snow plow and plowed Morton four times (and eventually Glass Street twice) as well as could be expected after over a week. After digging out our cars from the huge berms the plow/grader created, once more our lives will be semi-normal, and once more the school bus will arrive on time and we can go to work.


Now before Queen Mary Verner takes credit for this, I hasten to remind Netizens that since I regularly travel throughout the Spokane Valley I can state with absolute certainty that the residential streets in Spokane Valley were plowed clean as of Tuesday and Wednesday this week.


The problem, as I see it, is that Queen Mary is unable, for whatever reasons, to manage the union plow and grader drivers. It is readily apparent sitting on her throne in City Hall, she is unable to ascertain the true conditions of the residential streets after a snow fall. One suggestion from several others is perhaps Queen Mary should get out of City Hall more often and simply follow one of the city plow drivers around, as always in the interest of keeping them honest.


I am aware that an individual has already offered the City of Spokane the services of various Mormons armed with heavy-duty four wheel drives to help those in need. To date, there has been no response forthcoming from City Hall, but that comes as no surprise. Queen Mary only does press conferences.


That is perhaps suitable material for the next mayoral election.


At any rate, we are glad to be free once more to be able to conduct our lives more or less as we need to in order to survive.


Dave

Queen Mary’s abysmal record of snow removal…

Good morning, Netizens…


Actually, I should address this to Queen Verner, Mayor of our fair city, because I hold her directly responsible for the incredible lack of effort being made to make our streets safe.


I am sick to death of this crap and I’m not going to take it much longer!


We go to work each day and pay our taxes just like most of Spokane’s gainfully employed and we get pretty much the same services as everyone else EXCEPT when it comes to snow removal along our residential streets. Based upon our experiences from two years ago, we should have learned that actually sending a snow plow down our street is, at best, a half-hearted attempt, as two years ago they barely plowed the snow and piled up huge berms against vehicles that were parked on the right side of the street. We spent two days digging out of the result of having city plows clear our street, and we were even parked on the right side of the street.


This year, what do we have? Well, for starters, we have a school bus stuck in front of Willard School, and none of the streets in the vicinity of the school have been plowed. All side streets, from Bridgeport and Morton (and far beyond) are virtually impassable.


This morning the kids that wait every day at Morton and Glass to catch the school bus waited for over an hour and finally, resigned to their fates, simply started hiking up Morton to school because the school bus was stuck.


Then I can speak about Glass Street, itself. It has not seen a snow plow or grader running with its blade to the ground since last winter. Oh, but to be honest, thus far this week we have seen at least two city plows running with their blades aloft running down the street, their drivers unquestionably on overtime with benefits, but unconcerned with the mess of ruts and berms that sit on the pavement.


Is it time to outsource our snow removal? Is it time to put the contract with the unions in the trash can and find something that works? Is it time the City of Spokane started keeping their promises to those of us who live on residential streets?


I want to know.


Dave

It’s a snow day in Boise…

Boise schools are closed for a snow day today, with the school district reporting that “the significant amount of snow that fell during the day and evening of November 30 and into the morning hours of December 1 have made for dangerous traveling conditions for school buses and also for students, parents and District staff members.” The district made the call to cancel school at 4:30 a.m. today. The last snow day for Boise schools was Jan. 30, 2008, but that time the district made the call the night before in anticipation of snow and cold, only to have little fall; it’s been years since the last closure before that. This time, it’s for real, and kids can rejoice: Boise has at least 6 inches of snow, judging by the snowfall at my house, and it’s still falling.

Bogus Basin has 8 inches of new powder and it’s still snowing there; they open at 10 a.m.

Thanksgiving Day Eve and all is well…

Good morning, Netizens…


David Horsey’s cartoon this morning summarizes conditions yesterday in Seattle and points beyond, but it is inclusive of our humble pie in Eastern Washington, with the exception this morning when, although the roads are relatively clear, the thermometer sank into record-setting mode. As of 5:15 AM this morning, temperature outside the door to the Virtual Ballroom was sitting at zero, although the weather moguls are all jumping up and down, pointing eagerly at the minus 5 degree temperature at the airport, as if it justifies their existence. As often is the case the further outside the city lights you go, the colder it gets. Having lived in various other locations across the United States, I’ve been in colder places at or before the dawn. Call in the pets, put on an extra blanket or two and snuggle up if the opportunity presents itself.


Yesterday’s commute, in a few words, was financially illuminating, at least from the perspective of tow truck companies who remained busy all morning during the commute. As the illustrious Mhibbs pointed out with bare-faced elegance, he was able to travel throughout most of the City of Spokane with ease, once all the people with bald tires and/or lack of driving skills had been towed out of the way from whatever uncomfortable position they found themselves. In the words of my own beloved, road conditions after the commute hour mayhem were actually quite good once she crossed over the line to Spokane Valley where they applied copious amounts of sand and salt to nearly all intersections. What a concept, applying sand and gravel to intersections!


Take the money the City of Spokane regularly pays out to various indiscretions of the past (that will not be mentioned by me) and apply it to street maintenance and the problem simply evaporates.


Today is purported to be one of the busiest travel days of the entire year, but for me and mine we are having as little of it as possible, as we have already purchased our victuals for the Thanksgiving Day feast and aside from any last-minute provision runs, we will be staying close to home. Although we are not having mince meat pie, my beloved has promised me the culinary delight of pumpkin cheesecake, so we will be more than adequately provisioned for Thanksgiving Day, hunkering down and as prepared as one can be.


Seattle, much like Spokane proper, it seems, is unable to cope with any amount of snow at the onset of a storm for differing reasons perhaps, but the net result is quite similar.


Dave

H&W closes 8 offices for day due to weather

Severe winter weather and hazardous driving conditions in central and eastern Idaho have prompted the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to close all of its offices in regions 5, 6 and 7 for the day - that’s Burley, Blackfoot, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Rexburg, Preston and Salmon. All other Health & Welfare offices currently remain open, the department reports; you can read its announcement here.

The brighter side of the weather

WINTER SPORTS — You can’t be depressed about a big dump of snow if you’re out playing in it with a dog.

Meanwhile out in the sticks…

Good morning, Netizens…

If you are smart little Netizens, you are probably still huddled up in bed beneath a wealth of covers and perhaps the family dog because it is cold outside this morning. My comments about the blizzard warnings yesterday may have been premature or at very least, somewhat inaccurate for areas outside Spokane’s urban area.

I received an e-mail message from a farmer friend who lives by Odessa who tells me he has a five foot snow drift across the end of his lane and is in a whiteout condition. He would take his heavy-duty tractor and solve that problem, but since the school is closed today, nobody in the house has anywhere they really need to go. Besides, so long as the wind keeps blowing the snow drifts would simply reinstitute themselves as fast as he removes them. His solution was to make coffee, feed the livestock and watch the snow blowing sideways across his barn yard.

The overall word according to those that know is once you travel outside town, where there are no buildings or trees to slow or mediate the effect of the wind, snow drifts have become commonplace overnight. Roads are closed, some schools are closed or delayed and travel is ill-advised in most areas outside Spokane’s inner core.

I wouldn’t qualify this as a blizzard in some areas, but it certainly comes close.

As for Spokane, the main streets for the most part have been plowed in a disultory fashion, and in most cases that is about all you get. Hence once the morning commute actually gets started, we probably could see a version of the bumper car game that will keep our streets and freeways tied up for hours.

Once we recover from all this, tonight it will be frigid with temperatures slated to fall below zero, thus breaking temperature records.

Dave

Blizzard? Where?

 Good evening, Netizens…


Oh, perdition on it all! The National Weather Bureau has issued a blizzard warning for most of the Inland Northwest tonight beginning at 7:00 PM and lasting until tomorrow morning. Now I will have to whip out some of my old and true stories about what a real blizzard is like, not one of these half-baked Spokane blizzards, such as the one we endured two years ago. That wasn’t really a blizzard; that was just a lot of snow with a city that doesn’t have the training nor resources to deal with deep snow.


Now a blizzard, at least in the inter-mountain and Great Plains regions, is an entity to fear; you must be prepared for it and take speedy and effective action if one is coming your way or you may die.


According to meteorology a blizzard is defined more or less as a combination of high winds (typically 40 MPH or higher), frigid temperatures of less than 20 degrees and snow, either blowing or newly fallen variety.


I remember my first blizzard which took place in the late 1960’s. We were driving approximately 45 miles on a state highway when we first encountered the storm and within a matter of twenty minutes we found ourselves unable to see the road, with blowing and drifting snow and a wind of over 50 MPH blowing snow across the road. We were told by the state highway patrol to take shelter at Saint Anne School as the road ahead and behind us was closed. By that night the National Guard delivered food and beds to the high school gymnasium, the wind outside was gusting over 75 miles per hour which rattled the windows in the high school. Snow plows were stuck and hundreds of drivers stranded in the 20 foot high snowdrifts on both sides of the town.


I also remember another blizzard from 1980-something, one which closed Interstate 80 for over 100 miles, where I ended up parking my truck for four days in Little America, a huge car and truck complex in Wyoming State. There were over 1600 people stranded that time, and again the National Guard were able to see to our basic needs with trucks full of cots, food and medical supplies. The winds blew steadily at between 50 and 75 miles per hour, with over a foot of new snow with drifts over 20 feet high and visibility near zero. The temperatures the last two nights of what was termed a “super storm” dropped down into the teens which put an increased impetus on the rescue of those still stranded along the freeway.


They have at least one or two blizzards each year in the Dakotas which are equal to or exceed the powerful storms I have recalled.


This is not a blizzard, folks. At nearly ten o’clock at night, I can see still the neighbors house across the street and the street lights three blocks in any given direction. It is snowing fitfully and the streets are still marginally passable, although quite slick in places. But a blizzard? No, this is hardly a blizzard such as those I have known in parts of the Midwest and Western States.


This is just a winter snow storm with some wind and frigid temperatures. Your results may differ, of course, depending upon whether you are outside the city lights where the wind and snow can combine to drift snow.


Dave

Snow day in Boise…

It snowed all day yesterday in Boise without sticking, but today’s a different story, as the city awoke to a fluffy white blanket of snow a couple of inches thick. It’s the first driveway-shoveling day of the season, and for schoolkids, it’s time for snowman-building - Boise School District kids are out of school the whole week for Thanksgiving this year, thanks to budget cuts. Meanwhile, police have reported more than 100 traffic accidents across the state since Sunday due to winter driving conditions; be careful out there.

That vile white stuff hits Spokane…

Good morning, Netizens…


It is Thursday morning and egods it’s here! When I arose at about 3:30 this morning, it was snowing outside, and although it was sticking on the lawn and atop the vehicles, the streets on the North Side of Spokane were navigable, even by Spokane’s marginal standards, although I would wager that the South Hill and other higher areas of the city would be seeing different results.


What truly rattled my sense of humor is that Westbound Snoqualmie Pass was apparently closed for a short time this morning until everyone got their winter driving wings firmly attached by the Washington State Patrol. In this generation of bio-engineering isn’t there a human DNA gene that causes people to drive over mountain passes with bald tires with no tire chains?


However, at 5:00 AM this the passes are open and most major streets in Spokane are wet. Depending upon whether you are driving on bald tires, your travel times may differ.


Welcome to the new frontier. It’s that special time of year.


Dave

Dustin: Me Hates Wind Gusts

On Twitter, Dustin Hurst/Idaho Reporter writes: “I hate wind. I hate it more than any other weather condition. I would rather have 7 feet of snow than wind gusts.”

Question: Which weather condition bugs you most?

Ready for what is to come

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

 

   This winter, if ominous predictions can be trusted, is going to be a big one. That’s what the forecasters say. That’s what was printed in the newspaper. That’s what I keep hearing on the radio.
    They say this winter the wind is going to blow, the temperatures are going to plunge and stay down and the snow is going to fall. And fall. And fall.
    All close friend who skis is celebrating, she’s looking forward to a season of constant powder on the slopes and endless fun on the mountaintops. But I’m chewing my lip.
    I love winter, too. I really do. It’s incredibly beautiful here in the Northwest. The way the evergreen trees catch snowflakes and hold them until their limbs are flocked and heavy is a sight that always arrests me and holds my attention. There is nothing quite as peaceful as the deep silence of a snowy night, as though a blanket of white has been thrown over our heads muffling the noise of the world.
    I love the sting of the wind on my face and the taste of icy air as I lift each snowshoe, following a quiet path in the forest. As I drive around town, I notice the way the snow fills the areas that are normally in shadow, changing the landscape, upending the way we see things on a summer day. Looking out over the valley and across to the mountain tops in the distance, my eye follows hedgerows and fence lines, roads, rivers and streams, lighting on points I never noticed when the grass was green and the leafy trees hid the view.
    I love the winter holidays and the way they make ordinary things decorative; red and green traffic lights and a string of rush-hour traffic headlights on the highway are suddenly beautiful.
    But there is that other side of winter. The icy streets, treacherous roads and unpredictable mountain passes. The slush that turns gray and dirty too quickly, soaking through the toes of my shoes and making the hem of my jeans grimy. The chaotic parking lots and the sodden boots littering the floor by the back door. There’s the worry of frozen pipes and snow load on the roof. Will they close the hill before I make it home? Do I have chains in the car?
    “Oh, that’s just a bunch of little headaches,” my friend said when I brought up the darker side of winter, sweeping away my pedestrian winter worries with a flick of her wrist. “I say let the snow fall so we can go out and play.”


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 catmillsap@gmail.com

Forecasting the weather in E. Washington…

Good morning Netizens…


It’s late fall and the Yukapatooie Indians on their small reservation in Stevens County, Washington asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild.


Since he was a chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the ancient secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the winter was going to be like.


Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared..


But, being a practical leader, after several days, he got an idea He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service in Spokane and asked, ‘Is the coming winter going to be cold?’


‘It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,’ the meteorologist at the weather service responded.


So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared.


A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. ‘Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?’


‘Yes,’ the man at National Weather Service again replied, ‘it’s going to be a very cold winter.’


The chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find.


Two weeks later, the chief called the National Weather Service again. ‘Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?’


‘Absolutely,’ the man replied. ‘It’s looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we’ve ever seen.’


‘How can you be so sure?’ the chief asked.


The weatherman replied, ‘The Yukapatooie Indians are collecting firewood like crazy.’


(Adapted from a story told to me by Lela Taylor of Springdale.)


Dave