Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Northern Lights dazzled the Inland Northwest Sunday night

The Northern Lights appear on the north end of Hauser Lake, Idaho, along Ragged Ridge on Friday.  (Brian Plonka /

A rare chance to see the Northern Lights from Spokane bedazzled residents across the Inland Northwest Sunday night, but clouds and snow are likely to get in the way the rest of the week.

Sunday night’s aurora borealis had ideal viewing conditions with clear skies. Greg Koch, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane, said it was one of the more noteworthy aurora events of the last few years, in terms of pictures distributed on social media and the number of people who saw the lights.

The aurora was a 7, which is considered “strong,” on the K-index, a meteorological gauge. Koch said it usually takes a K-index of 6 or 7 for the aurora to be visible in northeast Washington and North Idaho.

The Space Weather Prediction Center predicted that the geomagnetic storm – caused by two coronal mass ejections from the sun – would continue Monday and wane to moderate intensity on Tuesday.

{video id=5932}

The local cloud cover will make it very difficult to see. A weather system beginning Monday afternoon will bring clouds and light snow across the region overnight and into Tuesday morning, Koch said. The system is expected to bring anywhere from 1 to 4 inches of snow to Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

The clouds will probably be too dense to see the northern lights even from mountaintops.

“Moving up to higher terrain probably is not going to help you out this go-around,” Koch said.

There may be a small clearing of clouds on Wednesday, but clouds will increase again overnight, bringing another chance for light snow on Thursday.

Koch said parts of central Washington may have a few windows of viewing opportunity throughout the week.

“It looks like winter is dragging its heels with another two or three opportunities for snow this week and into the weekend,” Koch said. Temperatures are expected to remain at or below average for the next 10 days.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.