National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

A strong low pressure system on November 8th and 9th brought the first widespread snow for the 2000-2001 cold season to North Idaho and Eastern Washington. The heaviest snow fell in northeast Washington and North Idaho above 2000 feet in elevation. Most locations received 2 to 4 inches. However, some localized spots picked up 5 to 10 inches. This included, Spirit Lake and Priest Lake, as well as Waterville and Winchester. The only locations that did not receive an accumulating snow were the Central Basin and most locations along the river valleys below 1200 feet in elevation. This was because temperatures were too warm. The following review will briefly describe a few of the factors that lead to the early season snow. A comparison of other early season snow storms will also be provided. 

Meteorological Factors 
A low pressure system and associated cold front swept through Alberta and Saskatchewan and into the Northern Plains on November 5th (shown in the image to the left). Very cold air swept south behind the cold front. High temperatures were only reported in the teens and lower 20s in eastern Montana and North Dakota on the 6th and 7th, which is about 30 degrees below normal. As the cold air deepened over the next few days, some of the cold air spilled over the mountains of Western Montana and into North Idaho and Eastern Washington. This intrusion of cold air set the initial stage for snow across North Idaho and Washington. 

MSLP and temps
Click image to see it loop (135KB)


Meanwhile, a storm south of the Gulf of Alaska headed toward Washington. The storm was quite weak as it approached the coast on the 6th and into the afternoon of the 7th. However, the storm quickly gathered strength the eve of the Presidential Election. By the morning of the 8th, the low pressure system developed into a full fledged storm. As the low pressure deepened over Washington, it pulled more and more cold air in from the east. Plentiful moisture brought in from the Pacific Ocean by the low, combined with the cold air, brought snow to many parts of Washington and North Idaho on the morning of the 8th.

The low pressure system stalled over Washington on the afternoon of the 8th and remained nearly stationary into the 9th as it weakened. Light snow continued in many areas through the morning of the 9th, but most of the accumulating snow had stopped overnight on the 8th. Although the snow never fell particularly hard, the snow fell steady for 18-24 hours. This allowed for the snow to slowly accumulate over time. 








Top 5 biggest 24 hour snowfalls by Nov 8 
at the Spokane Airport (1948-2000)
11/04/1973   9.0"
10/22/1957   5.9"
11/04/1994   5.2"
11/08/2000   4.4"
11/08/1985   4.0"







The amount of snow that fell on Nov 8, 2000 was quite significant for early November. There has only been three other storms that brought more snow to the Spokane Airport in a 24 hour period by Nov 8 (records have been kept at the Spokane Airport since Dec 1947). However in 1985, 8.1" inches of snow fell from Nov 8 to Nov 9. Records for the Palouse and Camas Prairie also reveal this storm ranks in the top five 24 hour snowfalls by Nov 8 for those locations. The 4.4" of snow recorded at the Spokane Airport on Nov 8, 2000 is the most snow that has ever been measured on that day. The old record was 4.0" set in 1985. 


By, Don Moore