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Sunday, May 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Weathercatch: April showers? Late and light

Rain clouds gather over the Palouse in Eastern Washington on April 24, 2020, following a dry streak in the Inland Northwest that ended April 22. (Linda Weiford / For The Spokesman-Review)
Rain clouds gather over the Palouse in Eastern Washington on April 24, 2020, following a dry streak in the Inland Northwest that ended April 22. (Linda Weiford / For The Spokesman-Review)
By Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

Mother Nature finally remembered the part about April showers bringing May flowers. While better late than never, it still added up to a relatively dry month.

With the exception of a light mix of rain and sleet that fell in Spokane on April 5 and some drizzle on April 15, harder rainfall didn’t arrive until April 22. And even then, it amounted to a mere 0.15 of an inch.

Basically, dry spells with sporadic days of light rain dominated the Inland Northwest. This kind of weather would barely raise an eyebrow in June, but not so much in April.

Last year, Spokane International Airport recorded 1.47 inches for the month, compared to less than a half-inch this time around. April 2018 received 2.03 inches. In April 2017 – on the heels of the second wettest March on record – 14 days of measurable rainfall was reported in Spokane, bringing that month’s total to 1.6 inches. That same April, Spokane broke a record for its wettest season (measured from October to April) since precipitation measurements started being taken in 1881.

Although April 2020’s dryness is considered unusual, thanks to the late-arriving cushion of moisture, it’s not extreme. The driest April on record occurred in 1956, when the Spokane area received only 0.08 of an inch of rain. This April’s precipitation is well past that mark, which is a good thing for area farmers.

The polar opposite of 1956 is 1893, when nearly 4 inches of rain fell in Spokane, making it the wettest April on record for the area.

This year, a high pressure system over the Pacific Northwest was responsible for the the dry weather we enjoyed the first three weeks of the month. Incredibly, even Seattle and Portland experienced back-to-back weeks of dry conditions. Then, a cool and somewhat rainy weather pattern got underway.

As April draws to a close, what about May’s flowers?

The fashionably late rain we got will certainly help, but warm temperatures and sunshine also contribute to their blooming. Right now, models are suggesting we’ll get plenty of both in the coming weeks.

After a coronavirus-driven “winter of discontent,” it’s just what we need to nourish the flowers and our spirits.

Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek. Contact: ldweiford@gmail.com.

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