Everybody loves a parade. But not the kind that just finished its march across the Pacific Northwest.
This was a parade of wintry disturbances that unleashed heavy snow, wind gusts and chilly temperatures over many parts of the region. In the first two weeks of 2020, the Inland Northwest went from breezy, early springlike conditions to the biggest snowfall and coldest weather of the season.
Why the big change? An unsettled weather pattern over the Gulf of Alaska generated a series of back-to-back disturbances that delivered hefty precipitation, occasional winds and a big temperature drop to our area. In a seemingly relentless pattern that began Friday, 7 inches of snow bombarded the Spokane area. After a brief pause, a mix of rain and snow fell Saturday, followed by an additional 2 inches of snow on Sunday and another inch on Monday morning.
On top of this, bursts of winds slid across much of Washington and North Idaho starting Sunday evening. In the north-central part of the state, Oroville and Omak reported gusts as high as 55 mph and 43 mph, respectively. Here in the Inland Northwest, gusts reached 32 mph in Moscow-Pullman, and 23 mph in Spokane.
The parade’s next act appeared when a southward plunge of Arctic air led to a sharp temperature drop that began Monday night. Overnight lows hit 16 degrees in Spokane, compared to the average low of 23. And wouldn‘t you know, another round of snow moved in, with 3 more inches falling into Tuesday. What’s more, overnight, low temperatures dipped to the single digits.
Meanwhile, the mercury has nudged upward, but patchy blowing snow continues. Does all this mean we’re in for a blockbuster winter? Probably not. With no El Nino or La Nina brewing in the tropical Pacific Ocean, short-term climate patterns will help drive the season’s weather. This means we can expect a fair amount of variability – snow, wind, rain, and temperatures that go up and down.
Oh, and spells of sunshine.
Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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