Despite the rain that finally fell across the Inland Northwest last Friday and into early Saturday morning, we are still in the midst of a big dry spell. Flashes of changing yellow and orange leaves against brown patches on lawns convey that the first half of September – like the entire simmering summer that preceded it – delivered very little rainfall.
Following a week of warm, bright sunshine, a half-inch of rain or more was predicted to fall on Sept. 10 in many locations, including Spokane. But Mother Nature had other ideas.
Although dark skies looked threatening enough to unload a good downpour and perhaps make a dent in our region’s prolonged drought, the threat didn’t pan out. It rained 0.23 of an inch in Spokane, 0.16 of an inch in Moscow-Pullman and 0.17 of an inch in the Coeur d’Alene area.
The last time it rained more than 0.23 of an inch in Spokane was back on June 15, when we got 0.36 of an inch of rain. It didn’t rain again until July 21, with just 0.12 of an inch, followed by 0.05 of an inch on Aug. 21.
Typically, we get 3.15 inches of rain from June 1 to Sept. 30. Right now, we stand at just 0.87 of an inch. So absolutely, we could have used more rain last week. What happened?
The storm system originated off the Oregon coast. Instead of pushing the bulk of the moisture into the Inland Northwest – as was forecast – it trekked to the west of us. Moses Lake received 0.52 of an inch of rain. The tiny town of Hartline, located 85 miles west of Spokane, got as much as 1.51 inches. Even Yakima, nicknamed the “Palm Springs of Washington” for its dry, sunny weather, got more rain than Spokane, at 0.24 of an inch.
The fact is, we usually see at least one big storm system in September, often with heavy rain, lightning and thunder. One of the more memorable storms occurred on Sept. 15, 2013, when two parts of the same system hammered much of Washington state. In Seattle , a downpour accompanied by a lightning strike near CenturyLink field suspended the Seahawks vs. 49ers game for an hour during the first quarter (FYI, the Seahawks won 29-3).
The system unleashed more fury east of the Cascades, where heavy rain squalls and winds up to 60 mph flattened cornfields in the Tri-Cities area and knocked apples off trees. The community of Wheeler near Moses Lake got hit with 1.2 inches of rain in just 15 minutes, according to the National Weather Service, and hail fell on the Palouse. Wind damage was reported in the Spokane area, where a large dust storm preceded the thunderstorm.
Speaking of rain, a notable shift in the weather arrives Friday, with periods of widespread rainfall and considerably cooler temperatures predicted across the Inland Northwest. Does this mean we could reach September’s normal precipitation value? Only if we see a much wetter-than-normal second half of the month. Impossible, no, but not likely.
That said, there’s a good chance of rain Friday and into the weekend, but not a washout. High temperatures should run in the low 60s through Sunday with overnight lows in the mid-40s to low 50s.
Nic Loyd is a meteorologist in Washington state. Linda Weiford is a writer in Moscow, Idaho, who’s also a weather geek. Contact: email@example.com.
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