Boise’s 2017 weather: ‘Snowpocalypse,’ months of flooding, record Thanksgiving heat

The winter of 2016-17 hit Boise like an icy snowball in the face.

We got buried, and it stung a little bit.

Tools for managing copious amounts of snow — like shovels, snowmelt and snow blowers — became as rare as albino deer in the Foothills. In January, there were five days of subzero temperatures, and only 12 days when highs reached 32 or higher.

Snow on the ground Jan. 5 reached record levels: 15 inches, according to the National Weather Service. That made getting around the city difficult.

But it wasn’t all bad.

“It was the best ski year I can remember,” said Jay Breidenbach, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist in Boise. The Weather Service began collecting snow depth data in 1939.

Over the whole winter, 39.1 inches of snow fell on Boise, making it the 10th snowiest winter since 1892.

The heavy, seemingly endless winter snowfall tops many lists of the most memorable weather-related events this year but there were many other notables, including over 100 days of Boise River flooding, a 44-day heat wave (90 degrees or above) during the summer and a record high 66 degrees on Thanksgiving.

It was the fourth warmest year on record for Boise, though that could change depending on how December ends (an inversion could mean the year ends up being the fifth warmest).

The winter snow didn’t melt much between storms. The weight of the snow caused structure damage to buildings in the city and around the state. Some referred to it as a “Snowpocalypse,” and one woman commemorated our collective misery with Scout-style badges for $5.

“We have so many warm winters in a row, over the last decade, where it really didn't snow much, people seem to forget that Idaho is a snowy place,” Breidenbach said. “We average 20 inches in a season in Boise. Last winter, we were almost twice that.”

That grueling winter gave way to an anxious spring, as many wondered where all that melted snow was going to go. Snowpack in central Idaho was 150 to 180 percent above normal in mid-March, said Troy Lindquist, senior hydrologist for the Weather Service.

And there was still water falling from the sky: March and April were both much wetter than normal.

The Boise River ran above flood stage for 101 days, starting March 1, Lindquist said.

“It was pretty extreme for the length of that flood event,” he said, noting that it was at minor flood stage the whole time.

Flood waters submerged Riviera Estates Mobile Home Park in late May, and the county issued a mandatory evacuation order for the 80-home park. Power, gas and running water were cut off but some defied the evacuation order.

Months of high water eroded riverbanks, compromised trees and ate away sections of the Greenbelt. The city hopes to have four damaged sections repaired by next spring.

Many worried that there were would be no float season on the swollen Boise River — the water was too high and swift for much of the summer. Barber Park’s Raft and Tube rental shop was finally opened on July 29, the latest-ever opening date.

Then came a long, hot summer.

A 44-day heat streak of days of 90 degrees or hotter began on June 30. The average temperature for the month of July was 81.6 degrees, making it the second hottest July since 1877.

“The hot summer I remember because of my electrical bill,” said Joel Tannenholz, a Weather Service meteorologist. “The air conditioning. That’s not cheap.”

Wildfire smoke, primarily from far-flung fires in California, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Canada, fouled the air at times during the late summer.

School sporting events and outdoor activities were canceled due to poor air quality. Star gazers were worried smoky air might obscure their view of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.

Fall weather arrived “abruptly” in mid-September, according to the Weather Service. The second half of the month had below normal temperatures, and that continued through to mid-October.

November more than made up for the cool start to fall. In fact, November was the 10th warmest on record. We reached a record high of 66 degrees on Thanksgiving.

We got our first measurable snowfall this fall on Dec. 3. About one-tenth of an inch was recorded at the airport.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality alert for Thursday for the Treasure Valley. Air quality conditions are expected to deteriorate as inversion conditions strengthen in the area.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller