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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Weathercatch: A tale of extreme Octobers

Mady Reap was surrounded by fall color on Oct. 13 as she walked along River Avenue in Coeur d’Alene.  (Kathy Plonka/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Mady Reap was surrounded by fall color on Oct. 13 as she walked along River Avenue in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Nic Loyd and Linda Weiford For The Spokesman-Review

It poured and poured. And then it poured some more. We’re not talking about the recent rains that arrived after three straight weeks of sunshine this October. Instead, we’re referring to October 2016, the rainiest month ever recorded in Spokane and other parts of the Inland Northwest.

To clarify, it wasn’t just the wettest October recorded in 135 years of record-keeping – it was, and still is, the Spokane area’s all-time wettest month on record. Period.

October 2016 saw only six days without rain. By the close of Halloween, a total of 6.23 inches had fallen at Spokane International Airport, five times the average of 1.18 inches for October. The month’s deluge topped the previous all-time record of 5.85 inches set in November 1897.

Priest River received an impressive 9.26 inches of rain that month, Coeur d’Alene got 6.86 inches and the Pullman-Moscow area 5.69. Yakima, billed as the Palm Springs of Washington for its dry, sunny weather, got four times its normal October rainfall amount at 2.5 inches.

It turns out that this October is one for the record books as well, but for an entirely different reason. By the end of last week, the region saw 19 days of abnormally warm, dry weather that set a new record for the number of 70-degree and higher temperatures for the month.

The atmospheric conditions at play during these two Octobers couldn’t be more different.

In 2016, a strong jet stream steered a steady series of storm systems toward Washington from the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Some of the storms were fueled by remnants of a large tropical typhoon originating east of Japan that got sucked in by the jet stream.

By contrast, during the first three weeks of October 2022, a large ridge of high pressure centered over the Pacific Northwest trapped warmth over the region and blocked out wet, stormy weather.

Obviously, that high pressure system dissipated. A cold front moved in on Friday, bringing a big temperature drop, the season’s first freeze, rainfall and even a light mix of snow on Monday and Wednesday. Although we’ll get a break today, a spell of active weather looms through Halloween.

Speaking of which, on Halloween 2016, 0.38 inches of rain fell in Spokane, and wind gusts up to 30 mph made for wobbly witches hats and butterfly antennas. And what about this Halloween, which falls on Monday? Temperatures are expected to hover around 50 degrees with a chance of rain and some wind.

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