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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Mountains protect region from severe storms

Randy Mann

As we get further into the spring season, it’s becoming more unlikely that we’ll see any more snow. Last year, snow fell in early June. I don’t believe that we’ll see a repeat of that scenario this year, but in this cycle of wide weather extremes, anything is possible.

The winter of 2008-’09 was the snowiest in recorded history at the Spokane International Airport. An amazing 97.7 inches fell. The previous record was 93.5 inches set back in 1949-’50. We came close in 2007-’08 with 92.6 inches. But, the combined winters are the snowiest ever observed with 190.3 inches.

The spring and summer period is the peak thunderstorm season in the Inland Northwest. Although we do get our share of thunder, lightning, hail and even a rare tornado, the severity of these storms does not compare to the ones seen east of the Rockies, especially in the Great Plains “Tornado Alley.”

The Cascade Mountains to the west and the Rockies to the east often protect our region from the elements needed to produce the extreme weather conditions of thunderstorm and tornado activity. The warmer and more humid waters from the Gulf of Mexico are necessary ingredients to help produce the severe weather conditions across much of the central U.S., the Southeast, the Mid-Atlantic states and occasionally the Northeast. Thanks to the Rocky Mountains, the Gulf of Mexico’s influence is limited across the Northwest.

Late last week, a series of tornadoes moved across the southern U.S. that damaged more than 100 homes and killed at least five people.

For the rest of spring season, we should see an above normal number of thunderstorms across the Inland Northwest. The average number of days with thunderstorms in the Inland Northwest is 11 (one in April, two in May, three in June, two in July, two in August and one in September). Although, it’s possible that one or two of those severe storms may produce a tornado, the chances of that happening are low.

Weather conditions for May should be much better, especially compared to last year. Temperatures will be warmer, but there will still be occasional rain and thunderstorm activities.

I still expect to see a warmer and a bit drier summer season. There will probably be at least 20 to 25 afternoons this season with readings near or above 90. Don’t be too surprised to see a couple of afternoons actually hit or exceed the century mark.

Next week, I’ll talk about some of the strongest thunderstorms to hit the Inland Northwest.

Contact Randy Mann at, or go to for additional information.
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