Record cold hit eastern Idaho in October

Eastern Idaho broke record cold temperatures in October. Based on Idaho Falls data, it was the coldest October in recorded history.

It was a somewhat white Halloween in the area last week following the first large snow storm of the season.

Rigby Public Works Director Mitch Bradley said the city did not plow all city streets, but had two sand trucks going around the city from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Leaves covered in ice can clog drains, meaning snowmelt has nowhere to go, Bradley said. Covering those leaves with snow can cause street flooding and standing water on the asphalt, he said.

“The reason we didn’t push it all the way to the gutters is preventative maintenance for our roads, basically,” Bradley said.

Dave Walrath, head of the county road and bridge department, said workers had plowing under control Oct. 29. He said the snow was an opportunity for three veteran snow plow employees to teach three newcomers.

“From what I hear, it’s not too bad,” Walrath said Oct. 29.

The snow itself — 2.7 inches recorded in Rigby and 1.7 inches southeast of the city — was not abnormal, said Kevin Smith, meteorologist with the Pocatello National Weather Service.

What is unusual is the extreme cold.

“We have set some pretty impressive temperature records,” Smith said.

The Idaho Falls NWS weather station detected record daily and monthly cold temperatures in the city. On Oct. 30, the temperature dipped to -3 degrees, with the previous record set at 8 degrees in 1991, Smith said. Smith said that -3 degrees is also the coldest October temperature recorded for Idaho Falls, and the soonest it has reached below 0 degrees in the fall.

On a whole, October 2019 is the coldest October in recorded history at the Idaho Falls weather station, Smith said. He said data is still being gathered for October, which could lead to further interesting statistics for the region.

Idaho Falls is the nearest site where the NWS declares temperature records. Other sites where temperature is recorded in the Pocatello NWS region Burley, Challis, Rexburg and Stanley. Temperature records are not declared at the relatively new Rexburg site.

While October has been unseasonably cold, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration winter outlook indicates this winter will be warmer on average than most. Smith said that outlook may not be as reliable as in other years. Meteorologists can typically predict seasonal outlooks based on whether it is an El Nino or La Nina year. This year, it is neutral.

“That kind of makes this (NOAA outlook) a little lower confidence,” Smith said.

Smith said every winter in the area will still include snow storms, cold snaps and warm-ups regardless of the outlook.