Flash of spring couldn’t undo January’s bitter cold

January 2017 was a monster of a cold month. (Disney photo from “Frozen”)

By Nic Loyd, WSU meteorologist, and Linda Weiford, WSU news

SPOKANE, Wash. – Remember the stint of unseasonably warm weather that triggered the Big Melt in mid-January? It wasn’t enough to offset the month’s brutal cold that encased the Inland Northwest.

In the Spokane area and elsewhere, it was among the coldest Januarys since 1882.

So if the month seemed unnervingly cold to you – even though for a few days it felt like spring – it’s because the brief respite of mid-40s temperatures was a minor blip compared to the two substantial rounds of arctic air that preceded it.

What follows is a breakdown of how the weather unfurled during the month.

The first arctic blast struck on Jan. 2, when overnight lows dipped to minus 3 degrees on Jan. 4, 5 and 7. What’s more, we got belted by cold, dry winds more commonly seen in the Midwest. The National Weather Service even issued a wind chill advisory, a wintertime alert rarely delivered in this part of the country.

After a mere three-day lull, the region confronted a second arctic blast Jan. 11-17, when the mercury plunged to minus 4 degrees on Jan. 12 and 14.

For that time of year, the weather was 22 degrees colder than the daily average. In addition, we got walloped by snow. (To the joy of those who ski and the irritation of those who do not, we recently got walloped once again.)

On Jan. 18, the weather changed gears when temperatures turned spring-like for five days. Icicles dripped, snow drifts melted and roadways turned slushy. On Jan. 20, Spokane basked in a daytime high of 43 degrees.

The warmth was short-lived. By Jan. 24, the weather behaved more like January, with high temperatures hovering near freezing and lows in the 20s and teens.

Though not the bone-chilling freeze we experienced during the month’s first half, the wintry conditions helped boost January 2017’s ranking to among the coldest on record.

There is a light at the end of this frozen tunnel and it’s not an oncoming train.

The remainder of winter shouldn’t produce similar jolts of cold. Milder weather is displacing the arctic air – so much so, that stretches of above-normal temperatures are in store along with ample precipitation.

And possibly, you’ll have days when you reach for an umbrella instead of your overworked shovel and ice scraper.


Weathercatch is a bimonthly column that appears in The Spokesman Review. Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek. Contact: linda.weiford@wsu.edu.