January in the West
Temperatures were near normal throughout the west except for isolated basins and valleys where strong inversions persisted through the month keeping temperatures well below normal. Vernal, UT, in the snow covered Uinta Basin, was nearly 8 degrees F below normal for January as a strong inversion remained solid for most of the month, while nearby mountain locations 3000 feet higher averaged 10-15 degrees F (6-10 C) warmer. In California’s Central Valley frequent fog kept average maximum temperatures mostly below normal while coastal and mountain locations basked in sun and above normal temperatures.
Precipitation was below to well below normal in the throughout most of the west except for portions of northwest Washington and northeast Montana. Glasgow, MT, set a new all time monthly snowfall record going back 95 years with 41.6 inches (105.7 cm) shattering the old record of 32.9 (83.6 cm) inches set in January 2004. It was also the second wettest January in Glasgow. Much of the desert Southwest received no precipitation at all.
Mountain snowpack dropped significantly in the Sierra Nevada from January 1st to February 1st, with snowpack dropping from 215% of normal to 130% of normal around Lake Tahoe. Although mountain snowpack remains fairly healthy throughout the west, many locations lost snow during the dry January. The Pacific Northwest and the mountains of the Southwest are below normal even though precipitation in the Northwest is above normal for the winter as snow levels have been relatively high for many storm events.
Significant Events for January 2011
December 25-26, 2010 – January 3, 2011: Freezing Spray in Alaska: Strong winds combined with blizzard conditions, cold temperatures and a lack of sea ice caused very heavy freezing spray to buildup on power lines in the village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island leading to widespread power outages to over half the town. With furnaces shut down numerous homes reported water pipes bursting. Power was finally restored on January 3rd.
January 11: Freezing Rain and Snow in Pacific Northwest: A cold winter storm brought snow and freezing rain to parts of western Washington and Oregon. Up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) of snow fell in the Seattle area before turning to freezing rain. Interstate 84 east of Portland was closed several times on the 11th from the icy conditions. Seattle-Tacoma Airport had numerous delays and about a dozen flights were diverted.
January 15-17: Heavy Rain in Flooding in Oregon and Washington: A rather warm storm hit the Pacific Northwest with heavy rain and high snow levels causing widespread flooding in the region. Numerous highways were closed due to landslides, flooding or avalanches. Some evacuations were in place in parts of northwest Oregon. One person was killed by a falling tree about 20 miles east of Seattle..
January 23: Blizzard in Southwest Alaska: A 14-year old boy from Kipnuk, AK, in southwest Alaska, died while trying to walk home from a friend’s home in a blizzard. He apparently became disoriented in the blowing snow. Winds were gusting to 60 mph at the time combined with a temperature of -10 F (-23.3 C) leading to wind chill factors of -50F (-46 C).
January 2011 Departure from Normal Temperature and Percent of Normal Precipitation for Western United States