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Winter's On Its Way

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Warm and dry weather has changed to wet and cold

Warm and dry weather characterized September in the lower Clark Fork Valley, with average temperatures about five degrees above normal. The high for the month was 94 at Thompson Falls and Trout Creek on the 24th and 25th respectively. The low was 29 at Heron on the 8th. The first freeze of the season occurred at Heron on the 6th and at Trout Creek on the 8th. Although the Thompson Falls and Noxon stations did not record a freeze in September, several nearby locations reported frosts early and late in the month.

    Precipitation was sparse, ranging from 15% of average at Heron to 43% at Trout Creek. Totals were 0.41" at Thompson Falls, 0.60" at Trout Creek, 0.37" at Noxon, and 0.25" at Heron. Heron had its driest September since 1990 and the driest August-September interval since 1928, when no measurable precipitation was recorded over the two-month period. A little of the moisture that fell this September brought a dusting of snow on some peaks on the 7th. Snow at the valley level in September is quite rare, with the maximum on record only a half-inch at Trout Creek on the 23rd in 1926. The last recorded snow was 0.1" in Heron in 1988 on the 27th.

    The long dry spell came to an abrupt end on October 8, and from that day through the end of the month only two or three days were without measurable precipitation. The wet and cloudy days kept the daily highs cool and moderated the overnight temperatures.  Overall, temperatures averaged about two degrees cooler than normal.  The high for the month occurred on the first day with the warmest recording 83 degrees at Thompson Falls. The low also occurred during the first week, bottoming out at 24 degrees at Trout Creek and Heron.

    Precipitation was more than double the average at all locations except Trout Creek.  Totals were 3.34" at Thompson Falls, 3.70" at Trout Creek, 6.00" at Noxon, and 5.33" at Heron. A total exceeding 8 inches was reported at a residence in the Bull River valley about 9 miles north on Highway 56.  As wet as it was, October was wetter at most locations in 1995.  The wettest October on record was in 1950, when Heron recorded 8.47 inches of rain.

    Though heavy snow up high greeted early November, a mild, dry spell brought beautiful autumn weather to the valley most of last week, including a spectacular display of the aurora borealis. Rarely are the northern lights so colorful this far south.

Frank Coupal has been tracking the weather on a daily basis for 35 years from his home near the mouth of Bull River five miles west of Noxon.

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Frank Coupal Frank Coupal is a Montana resident with an eye for weather.

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