Portions of East Idaho could see snow this week

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal  Storm clouds crawl over Scout Mountain with fresh snow covering the upper reaches Tuesday morning.

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal
Storm clouds crawl over Scout Mountain with fresh snow covering the upper reaches Tuesday morning.

By Kendra Evensen, kevensen@journalnet.com 

The transition from summer to fall came suddenly, and it appears Mother Nature isn’t through with her surprises yet. Many areas could see winter-like conditions in the days ahead.

Storms are forecast to bring snow to the mountains of Utah, Montana and Wyoming this week, and Idaho could see its share, too.

The National Weather Service has issued a special weather statement affecting the cities of Stanley, Clayton, Hailey, Ketchum, Bellevue, Arco, Challis and Mackay.

Officials say an early fall storm system will impact the Central Idaho Mountains through Thursday night, and combined with a cold front, could bring 2 to 6 inches of snow to elevations above 6,000 feet. They say 6 to 12 inches could also fall in areas above 8,500 feet.

“Roadways for the next couple days will be slick at times, especially at pass level,” according to the special weather statement. “Please be cautious while traveling.”

Dawn Harmon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Pocatello, said the Southern and Eastern Highlands — basically areas south of Interstate 86 and east of Interstate 15 — could see 1 to 3 inches of snow in elevations above 6,000 feet, depending on how fast the cold air filters in.

“If you’re driving on Malad Pass or the Georgetown Summit, (you could see) slushy roads, particularly late Thursday into the night,” Harmon said.

Areas that could see snow this week include Island Park, Spencer, Dubois, Craters of the Moon, Driggs, Victor, Palisades, Bone, Wayan, Henry, Soda Springs, Lava Hot Springs, Montpelier, Georgetown, Paris and St. Charles.

This week’s storms come on the heels of a Thursday, Friday and Saturday storm that brought colder temps and rain to the entire region and snow to a few of East Idaho’s mountain areas.

The Island Park area got up to 2 inches of snow from that storm, while East Idaho’s mountain passes got 2 to 3 inches and the highest mountain peaks got up to 7 inches.

While the incoming storms could bring snow to most of East Idaho’s higher elevation communities, the lower elevation towns and cities where most of the region’s people reside — including Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Blackfoot and Rexburg — can expect rain.

Still, Harmon encourages people to pay attention to the weather in the next few days. She said there is a chance that temperatures could drop below freezing later in the week, which would affect gardens.

While it seems like the snow is coming early this year, Harmon, who has been with the weather service for 20 years, said it’s not that unusual.

Exactly how much snow will fall in the days and months ahead remains to be seen.

A La Niña watch recently went into effect. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is reporting that there is a 55 to 60 percent chance that a La Niña could develop this fall and winter.

Travis Wyatt, another meteorologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Pocatello, said that if a La Niña does develop, we could see near normal or slightly above normal temperatures in the months ahead, although the northern part of the state could see near normal or cooler temperatures.

A La Niña would also likely mean above normal precipitation, he said.

A new outlook report should be released later this week, which will provide more information about what we can expect, he said.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac, believed to be the oldest continually published periodical in North America, is predicting above-normal levels of precipitation throughout the nation, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest. It’s also forecasting cold temperatures in many areas.

“This winter is forecast to be much colder than last year’s, but — just like last winter — not colder than usual. In fact, a large part of the northern United States will experience milder-than-average temperatures (though we would still recommend having your long underwear on-hand), while much of the South and West can expect to feel cooler than normal,” according to www.almanac.com. “Escaping this chill are Florida and the Southeast, where milder-than-usual temperatures will be felt.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts Idaho will be cold and snowy this winter.