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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Weathercatch: Life’s a beach this holiday weekend – but use caution

Unlike Memorial Day shown last year in the Inland Northwest, this holiday weekend is shaping up to be sunny and warm.  (Linda Weiford/For The Spokesman-Review)
Unlike Memorial Day shown last year in the Inland Northwest, this holiday weekend is shaping up to be sunny and warm. (Linda Weiford/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Nic Loyd </p><p>and Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

This Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start of summer – sure looks rosier than it did last year. With a steep rise in COVID-19 vaccinations and the rolling back of pandemic restrictions, many of us are set to venture outdoors in a big way.

Whether we plan to go camping, boating or picnicking at a state park, a major rebound in road travel is expected this holiday weekend, according to the AAA auto club. Citing a surge in consumer confidence, the agency is predicting a 60% increase over last year.

That being the case, the big question is, will the weather be in a holiday mood?

While this week has delivered cooler temperatures, gusty winds and a few scattered showers, conditions are expected to start tapering tomorrow. Before we go into more detail, let’s take a look at some conditions the Inland Northwest has experienced over the years and also dispel a common perception that Memorial Day weekends are either gloom and doom or sensationally sunny. Instead, they’re often a mixed bag.

After all, we’re talking about three consecutive days in late May, not July when conditions are more consistent from day to day. Rain might threaten outdoor events on one day but not all three. Last Memorial Day weekend is a perfect example. Partly cloudy skies that prevailed on Saturday and Sunday weren’t enough to put a damper on outdoor plans, but the showers and wind gusts that tracked through the region on Monday were a spoiler.

Memorial Day weekend 2017 was a big exception, when it was hot and dry all three days. The mercury peaked at 87 degrees on Memorial Day, which fell on May 29 that year.

On Sunday, May 25, 1997, Spokane received nearly a half month’s worth of rainfall when a daily record was set of 0.74 inches. Even so, it was far from an weekend washout, with sunshine appearing the next day.

This Memorial Day weekend is shaping up to be a transition period, with temperatures steadily warming over the 3-day period. The National Weather Service is calling for a pleasant day on Saturday with mostly sunny skies and high temperatures close to 70 degrees and a nighttime low of about 45, both considered normal for this time of year. Sunday should warm up to the upper 70s. Monday may be the warmest of the holiday weekend, with highs aiming into the low 80s – 12-15 degrees above normal – and loads of sunshine.

For those of you eager to seek relief in rivers or lakes, please keep in mind that even as the weather heats up, the water is still cold. Rivers and lakes respond much slower to seasonal temperature changes than do land or surface air. Jumping or falling into a frigid body of water can bring on “cold shock,” that causes drastic changes in breathing and heartbeat which locks up muscle movement.

Whether you’re a swimmer, boater or paddleboarder, enjoy the glint of sunshine off the surface of the water this weekend. After all, “It’s been a long cold lonely winter” to quote the Beatles. But please use caution.

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