By Bill Biddle
Oktoberfest, ja? Oktoberfest, ja! Yes, the beginning of October will be one to raise our steins to in an exultant exclamation that this beautiful valley exists. Last month Weatherwatch exulted in the Indian summer days that lay ahead, and now, lo and behold, the first of at least two more Indian summer spells is at hand. Delightful!
Snow on Mt. Gardner and at Harts Pass, along with 30-degree readings on the valley floor during the last full week of September was the prelude to a classic Indian summer in October. The Oxford Dictionary of Weather by Storm Dunlop (2008 edition, web linked) gives the exact definition of Indian summer that the valley is having these first days of October. Revel and relish in these days – the end of the month will be quite different.
Yes, snow late this month will again confirm that this valley, along with Stanley, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyo., is one of the early winter spots of the West. High mountain sites like Donner Pass in California and Berthoud Pass in Colorado are other locations that have early winters, and our Washington Pass is sometimes on that list. Last year it was snowing east of Washington Pass in late October.
These bright, sunny days will give the valley dwellers time to stack the wood high in the woodshed or bring another cord or two in. It’s going to be a long, cold, snowy winter. La Niña lurks out in the Pacific, at least a moderate one, which means more cold and more snow for the Pacific Northwest, starting about mid- to late December and lasting well into February. Cliff Mass mentioned on one of his radio broadcasts that no skiing at Thanksgiving is nothing to worry about. The snow and cold will not get started until early December, when the La Niña will kick in. The November Weatherwatch will have much more to say about that.
During these Indian summer days look for spectacular cloud formations. The big high-pressure area that will cover the Pacific Northwest will keep wet, low-pressure areas to the west, but the cirrus clouds from that low will skirt in and out over the valley. Mares’ tails and mackerel sky (go to the web link mentioned above) will give everything from sun dogs to spectacular sunsets. Vapor trails from high-flying jets will add to the show.
But on or about Oct. 10 the weather in the valley will take a noticeable turn toward fall and early winter. Wendell Berry has a poem for that weather turn. It is titled “October 10” and here it is:
Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.
Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.
The calling of a crow sounds
loud – a landmark – now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.
A short stretch of Indian summer during the third week, but by the 26th or 27th snow will pelt the upper valley. It will melt by Halloween, but that weekend will have a hard freeze with temperatures in the low teens. Brrrr!
November? Stay tuned!