The ominous bloblike clouds that appeared overhead shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all, it was a Friday afternoon in the Inland Northwest.
Often a harbinger of stormy weather, mammatus clouds are distinctive pouchlike protuberances that typically hang on the underside of a cumulonimbus cloud. They’re far different than other clouds. Instead of forming in rising air and building upward like other cloud types, mammatus clouds form in sinking air and puff downward. They’re uncommon, especially in the Pacific Northwest.
And yet they were on display above Moscow midafternoon on Friday. Resembling a band of dark Bubble Wrap across deepening gray skies, it signaled that the weather was turning unfriendly. The rains arrived at dinnertime. Then came intermittent thunder and lightning into the evening.
Once again, outside plans for a barbecue, picnic, golf or a jog got washed away. Another weekend, another round of bad weather.
In a prank of nature, unpleasant weather has plagued every weekend except one since mid-April in our region. The rain and storminess we experienced last Friday evening were followed by partly sunny skies and breeziness on Saturday and more rain and wind gusts of 35 mph in Spokane on Sunday. So intense were downpours in Colfax, Palouse and Garfield that the National Weather Service in Spokane issued a flood advisory. Not only that, but overnight low temperatures dipped into the low 40s, making early June feel more like April.
The previous weekend was far worse. Coined the storm of the decade, several lines of thunderstorms barreled across the Inland Northwest on May 30-31, delivering heavy rains, lightning and powerful winds that knocked out power to thousands of residents. People who had ventured outdoors to enjoy the recently reopened campgrounds were forced to retreat to their tents and yurts or pack up and drive home.
Even Memorial Day weekend turned cool and damp. Driven by a “strong fetch of Pacific moisture into the Pacific Northwest” according to the National Weather Service, a deep layer of clouds settled over parts of the Inland Northwest on May 25, Memorial Day morning. Then came the drizzle and sporadic rain showers.
Spokane’s only rain-free weekend was May 9-10. Do we dare make outdoor plans for upcoming weekends or is it time to throw in the (soggy) towel?
Not surprisingly, this Saturday and Sunday are expected to be unsettled and cool. Consider it our last wet weekend before spring officially transitions to summer on June 20. Hang in there; warm, sunny weekends will return.
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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