Arctic wind, snow drifts make rare appearance

By Linda Weiford, WSU News

Snow-covered-carPULLMAN, Wash. – The frigid temperatures, blowing and drifting snow responsible for school delays and road closures in the eastern half of Washington state “is like something you’d see in the Dakotas – not here,” said meteorologist Nic Loyd of Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet.

“It’s rare for us to have this combination,” he said.

A cold snap with wind gusts arrived on the heels of a moderate snowfall that ushered in the New Year, resulting in knee-deep snow drifts in some areas of central and eastern Washington.

Several school districts cancelled classes today or opened two hours late because of poor driving conditions.

Frosty bike by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services
Frosty bike by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services

“Our winter winds usually come from the south or west and they’re warmer. What we’re experiencing now is a cold arctic wind from the northeast,” explained Loyd.

This wind, in turn, has been thrusting the light, dry snow that fell during the weekend.

By Monday morning, blowing and drifting snow forced the closure of Interstate 90 between Vantage and Kittitas and State Highway 27 from Fairfield to Tekoa.

Wind gusts reached more than 40 mph north of Prosser, 39 mph in Sunnyside and 24 in Ritzville.

As temperatures plunged across the Inland Northwest, the National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory through this morning. The wind chill index is a measure of how cold people and animals feel when exposed to wind and cold temperature combined.

Though the winds have calmed a bit today, “they’ll be back, with the coldest temperatures of zero and below predicted for early Thursday morning,” said Loyd.

The mercury should climb to lows in the mid-20s by Saturday, along with a chance of snow, freezing rain or sleet.


Nic Loyd: WSU meteorologist, 509-786-9357,

Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209,