Friday, January 24, 2020
Brrr-Sun Valley Freeze Will be Talked About for Years to Come
The mounds of manmade snow at Dollar Mountain baked in the 50-degree temperatures on Wednesday.
Thursday, November 7, 2019


It’s official. That teeth chattering, bone chilling cold that flushed us into early hibernation last week was part of a record cold October.

National Weather Service meteorologists have confirmed that it was the coldest on record for much of southern Idaho.

“Ketchum recorded an average temperature of 32.9 degrees during October 2019, according to meteorologist Alex deSmet. The previous coldest was 35.1 degrees in 1946.

Sun Valley Resort is not open for skiing yet, despite the tantalizing piles of snow.

Also Ketchum recorded its all-time coldest October temperature—a cool minus-7 on Oct. 30--since records began to be kept. The coldest wind chill at Friedman Memorial Airport—also minus-7 degrees—was recorded that day, as well.

“It was one we’ll be talking about for years to come!” said deSmet.

 Stanley registered an average temperature of 32.2 degrees compared with 32.3 degrees in 1920. Challis recorded an average 36.4 degrees versus 37.8 in 1919, and Mackay’s 34.9 degrees was the coldest since 1970.

Pocatello registered an average monthly temperature of 38.4 degrees versus 42.5 degrees in 2002; Burley, 41.1 degrees versus 42.0 in 1946, and Idaho Falls 36.4 degrees versus 38.8 degrees in 2002.

Craters of the Moon National Monument recorded an average temperature of 36.4 versus 37.8 in 1919.

It was also the coldest October on record for such towns as Aberdeen, Blackfoot, Chilly Barton Flats, Downey, Grace, island Park, Lifton, Malad, Minidoka, and Swan Valley.

And that’s without the windchill that howled across the West and through the Wood River Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 29 and 30.

The cold certainly tricked us well ahead of Halloween.

But Sun Valley Resort took advantage of the extreme cold temperatures to make a ton of snow on Baldy and Dollar Mountain in preparation for its Thanksgiving Day opener. Families and their dogs flocked to Dollar Mountain over the weekend to frolic amidst the 12-foot marshmallow mounds of snow.

But this week’s temperatures in the 50s have quieted the snow guns, particularly with early morning inversions that are rendering the mountain tops 15 degrees warmer than the 20-degree valley bottoms.

The extreme cold was caused by a jet stream pushing cold air from the Northwest Territories in Canada said Tim Axford, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pocatello. The cold bypassed Alaska, leaving parts of it 20 to 30 degrees warmer than normal and registering warmer temperatures than ours.

Now we’re locked into a different pattern with average and even above-average temperatures for the next couple weeks as the frigid air shifts to the Great Lakes and even Texas.

How rare is to have a warmer November than October in the same year?

It’s happened only once in Idaho Falls—in 1949.

the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting a warmer than average winter.

But that’s not set in balmy sand. Meteorologists typically predict winter forecasts based on El Nino and La Nina years and this year is neutral, leaving meteorologists with plenty of guesswork, Axford said.

“Generally, when there’s no strong El or La Nina, winter in Idaho is going to be pretty much winter in Idaho,” he said. “We’ll have a cool down for a week or two, then a warm up, and the cycle will repeat all over. Same for snowfall—it should be pretty average.”

  • How cold was the coldest day last week?

    The Idaho Falls NWS weather station recorded minus 3 on Oct. 30—besting the previous record of 8 in 1991. It’s the coldest October temperature ever recorded for Idaho Falls and the earlier it has reached below zero. Pocatello shattered its record on Oct. 30 with minus-6; Challis minus-2; Stanley, minus 8.

    The Copper Basin, registered minus-21, beating island Park, which had minus-17. Bonanza had minus-9, Stanley, minus-8, Timmerman Hill, minus-6 and Smiley Creek, minus-14.

  • The coldest temperature ever recorded in Boise? That would be minus-28 Jan. 16, 1888. While no one living today remembers that, many of us remember the minus-25 degree temperature on Dec. 22, 1990.
  • The coldest temperature ever recorded in Idaho was minus-60 at Island Park Dam in Eastern Idaho on Jan. 18, 1943.
  • But Stanley, where cold dense air descends from the Sawtooth Mountains into the valley, is considered the coldest town in the United States. It recorded the lowest temperature more days out of 10 years than any other state in the contiguous United States—398 days of the coldest. West Yellowstone, Mont., was second, followed by Gunnison, Colo., Truckee, Calif., and Alamosa, Colo.

Stanley experiences 270 days a year before freezing.


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