MORE SNOW NOW POSSIBLE: Weather service revises winter forecast for Idaho

December 13, 2018

Despite the cold temperatures and recent snowfall in East Idaho, the National Weather Service still says the Gem State is expected to have a warmer than normal winter.

The weather service’s winter outlook was released last month and predicted some states, including Idaho, would have warmer and drier winters.

The weather service has since revised that forecast and now says it’s no longer so sure about this winter being drier than normal in Idaho. There’s a chance the state could receive more precipitation than normal.

The cold weather and snowfall experienced in East Idaho lately have some wondering if the region’s in for the kind of winter experienced two years ago, during which the snow and cold were unrelenting as well as record-breaking.

According to Greg Kaiser, a local meteorologist with the National Weather Service, temperatures in the Pocatello area were indeed colder than normal through the month of November and have so far been colder than normal in December. But overall he said the weather service’s forecast for Idaho is still calling for a warmer than normal winter.

“That’s what is still forecast,” Kaiser said. “The long-term outlook is still for a warmer than normal winter in Idaho.”

Precipitation, however, could now trend either way, according to the weather service’s revised winter forecast for the state. Kaiser said there is now an equal chance of having a wetter or drier than normal winter in Idaho.

Thus far, the Pocatello area has actually received less snowfall than usual this winter.

According to Kaiser, the area near the Pocatello Regional Airport, where the Pocatello office of the National Weather Service is located, has received far less snow than normal for this time of year. The airport is located about seven miles from the city of Pocatello.

Inside Pocatello city limits, the snowfall is trending closer to normal but it is still slightly below average, Kaiser said.

However, the Pebble Creek Ski Area southeast of Pocatello has received significantly more snow than what it had at this time last year. Mike Dixon, Pebble Creek’s general manager, said the ski area opened on Saturday — a week earlier than scheduled and nearly three weeks earlier than its opening last year.

“This is definitely a better opening than last year,” Dixon said. “Last year we didn’t have nearly the snow we have this year. It took a while to get going.”

Every major ski area and resort in the region is now open for the season including Pomerelle, Grand Targhee and Kelly Canyon.

Grand Targhee always plans to open on the Friday before Thanksgiving and it did so this year, but with just about half the overall snow it opened with last year. Grand Targhee had 54 inches of snow when it opened this year compared to last year’s 110 inches.

Dixon said Pebble Creek is being cautious, as early openings always come with risks. The ski area opened the weekend of Dec. 8, but has been closed this week. Pebble Creek will open again this Friday. Pebble Creek officials said they have been closed this week to conserve the ski area’s 26 inches of snow because they didn’t know when the next snowstorm would hit.

That next storm barreled through East Idaho Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon.

The storm dropped less than 2 inches of snow on East Idaho’s lower elevation areas including Pocatello, while most of the region’s mountains received 4 to 5 inches of snow, according to the weather service.

Idaho State Police said they responded to nine slide-offs and three crashes on East Idaho’s interstates during the storm. Only one of the crashes resulted in injuries, state police said. It occurred on Wednesday morning on Interstate 84 eastbound near the Interstate 86 junction when two semis collided, injuring three people. The crash shut down Interstate 84 eastbound for over two hours.

Kaiser said that aside from scattered flurries forecast from Friday night to Saturday morning, no snowfall is expected in East Idaho through the end of next week.