Just as the Treasure Valley was settling in for what was expected to be a lovely spring day with plenty of sunshine and temperature in the mid 70s, forecasters were already pointing to a nasty bit of business that is expected to blow into the region late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service office in Boise said the speed of the cold front which was racing across Oregon, coupled with a strong drop in temperature, would bring very strong winds.
In fact, the NWS says the west-to-northwest winds could clock as high as 45 mph, and up to 50 mph in the western Magic Valley. Forecasters said higher gusts would blast across exposed and elevated locations, such as the Perrine and Hansen Bridges across the Snake River. A wind advisory, warning of hazardous driving conditions, has been posted, beginning 10 a.m. on Tuesday and continuing through 9 p.m.
Overnight temperatures were expected to drop at least 30 degrees overnight with a mix of rain and snow forecast for Tuesday morning and blustery conditions continuing throughout the day.The cold snap is expected to ease by midweek with temperatures making their way back to the 70s by week's end.
Across the western United States, snowpack is at record lows and melting faster than in years past.
Southwestern Idaho had a drier-than-normal winter and now, the United States Department of Agriculture warns snowpack across the western United States is melting early this year.
Peak snowpack usually occurs around April 1 but this year, there was little precipitation in March and according to a USDA report, what little snow fell between 2014 and early 2015 is melting faster than normal.
"Almost all of the West Coast continues to have record low snowpack. March was warm and dry in most of the West; as a result, snow is melting earlier than usual," Natural Resources Conservation Service Hydrologist David Garen wrote in the report.
Early melting may contribute to the west's already-severe water woes. On April 1, California Governor Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent reduction in that state's water use.
In Idaho, noticeable snowpack-related challenges have included the early closure of Bogus Basin and, according to an Idaho Natural Resources Conservation Service report, that's the tip of a rapidly melting iceberg: As a result of a warmer, drier March, Idaho saw a decrease in snowpack of between 20 percent and 30 percent. Of 137 sites across the state where snowpack is measured, only 30 of them reported March snow accumulation.
The National Weather Service office in Boise says Easter could be a bit soggy in southern Idaho this year. The forecast calls for a chance of showers Saturday night, and an increasing chance of more rain on Sunday with a high of 56 degrees. Things get chilly on Monday and Tuesday with a chance of a rain/snow mix and overnight lows near freezing.
In the past 136 years, since the National Weather Service began tracking conditions, the average temperature on Easter Sunday in Boise has been about 50 degrees. Things were downright frigid in 1945 when Boise registered 24 degrees on Easter (and residents may remember 1999 when it was 26 degrees). The warmest Easter on record was in 1897 when it was a toasty 86 degrees. More recently, residents may recall 1990 when it was 85 degrees. The snowiest Easter on record was in 1969 when a whopping 7.2 inches of snow fell.
Things were rather pleasant just last year, when Boise enjoyed 64 degrees on Easter Sunday. The year before, Boise hit 73 degrees and it was warmer still in 2012 when it was 75 degrees.
The winter of 2014-2015 was one of the mildest in recent southwest Idaho history. The coldest day of the season was Nov. 15, 2014, but December's lows stayed above historical averages. From Jan. 1-Feb. 5, all but three days saw fog blanket the Treasure Valley.
In McCall, the unofficial end of winter is usually indicated by the break-up of ice on Payette Lake; this year, the ice gave way on March 17, the earliest since records began being kept in 1909. This week's McCall Star-News reports that Payette Lake froze on Jan. 15, so the ice was on the lake for only two months this year.
Mudslides, triggered by the latest downpour in a string of storms that have pummeled the Pacific Northwest, have shut down passenger train service, bringing Amtrak's Cascades and Empire Builder trains to a halt.
In Oregon, a portion of Highway 66 was closed, Grants Pass experienced severe flooding and nearly 200,000 gallons of waste water from a treatment plant spilled off into Ashland Creek.
In Washington, KING-TV reported that a bridge in Clallam County was in danger of collapsing due to heavy flood waters. Meanwhile half a dozen homes on the Olympic Peninsula were reported to be flooded, and residents were evacuated from the community of Brinnon where dozens of cars were stranded by flood waters.
Meanwhile more rain is on its way to Southwest Idaho, with showers expected to come into the area after 11 p.m. this evening. Rain is expected to fall throughout the day on Monday and there's a chance of a rain/snow mix for Tuesday as temperatures begin to drop following Saturday's record highs.
It's being called a "mystery shower" or a "milky rain" and it has more than a few people puzzled as parts of Idaho, Oregon and Washington have been covered with a mysterious white, and often dirty, sheen in the recent round of showers.
The National Weather Service says it has collected water samples from throughout the region and sent them to a lab for testing. The white rain has coated windows and vehicles from Rathdrum, Idaho to Hermiston, Ore. and Spokane, Wash. The Walla Walla County, Washington emergency management staff posted a statement on their Facebook page that the mystery was likely attributed to volcanic ash, but they quickly updated their comments saying that the source of the rain had not been confirmed.
Meanwhile, KREM-TV reported Friday evening that calls had "poured" into its newsroom from viewers, regarding the mystery rain. The Spokane TV station said it, along with the National Weather Service, was still looking for an answer.
Emergency responders and residents living near creeks, ditches and storm water drains will be keeping a close eye on this coming weekend's rainfall and snowmelt—particularly in Washington County where the Weiser River is expected to crest just below flood stage in the evening hours of Saturday, Feb. 7. The National Weather Service says some of the region's mainstem rivers will experience significant rises, but should remain below flood level as on-again, off-again showers are expected to dominate the forecast into the first part of next week.
Meanwhile, a winter storm warning is in effect for elevations above 7,500 feet in the Sawtooths and mountains surrounding the Wood River Basin. The warning is in effect until early Sunday, Feb. 8. The National Weather Service says the winter storm will shift its focus from the Central Idaho Mountains to the mountains of the Idaho/Wyoming border by Sunday. The storm is expected to bring large amounts of rainfall and as much as 2 feet of new snow to the Central Idaho mountains.
The Idaho State Police have reopened all lanes of Interstate-84 after closing down a stretch of the highway from just north of Caldwell to the Oregon state line.
ISP reported that there was one fatal crash, near milepost 14 of I-84, but no details were immediately available.
ORIGINAL POST: 9 a.m.
Pea soup-thick fog and black ice made Monday morning particularly treacherous on Treasure Valley roadways. A dense fog advisory remained in effect throughout the morning as motorists crawled across Interstate-84.
Several bad wrecks on both sides of I-84 were reported between Black Canyon Road to the Idaho/Oregon border, prompting Idaho State Police to close the stretch of highway until further notice. Motorists were being rerouted through New Plymouth and Fruitland in Payette County and then over local roads to Ontario, Ore.
Motorists were told to steer clear of a major stretch of Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon through much of Saturday after a massive freeway pileup was triggered by black ice. By the time the wreckage was cleared away, law enforcement estimated that as many as 26 vehicles were damaged and dozens more backed-up by the pileup which began just east of Baker City, Ore.
Officials said the trouble began when two trucks jackknifed and crashed into one another, beginning a chain-reaction crash. Twelve people were treated for injuries at a Baker City hospital and four were transferred to other hospitals due to more serious injuries. One of the injured was sent to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.
It wasn't until near sundown on Saturday that westbound lanes of Exit 371 in Ontario, Ore., were reopened. Eastbound lanes remained closed into early Sunday morning, and conditions remained challenging with visibility of less than 500 feet due to freezing fog.
2014 is ending much like it began, with a cold blast of arctic air pushing overnight lows to well below freezing and ushering in a very frigid New Year's Day.
The National Weather Service office in Boise is forecasting more snow for the Boise region Dec. 29 and 30, but then a deep freeze will settle in with an overnight low of 1 degree forecast for Tuesday night and 6 degrees for New Year's Eve. New Year's Day is expected to be clear and very cold with a forecast high of 17 degrees.
The National Weather Service has tracked weather history since 1878 and the lowest New Year's Day temperature in Boise on record was 13-degrees below zero in 1942 (the second-coldest was 10-below in 1979); and the highest temperature was 61 degrees, recorded in 1939 (current residents may remember 1997 when Boise topped out at 60 degrees). The record snowfall for New Year's Day in Boise was six-inches recorded in 1910. But it was in 1982 that there was nearly a foot of snow on the ground in Boise following a holiday week blast of snow.