Winter isn’t even officially here yet, and already Missoula has seen the most snow since Bill Clinton was re-elected, the Nintendo 64 was brand new, and there was the first outbreak of Mad Cow Disease.
And anyone who survived one of the worst winters in the recent history of the Pacific Northwest, and the entire string of Northern Tier States has to be thinking “oh no, here we go again.”
That’s right, this fall, which officially ends next week, we saw the most snow dump on Missoula since 1996. That was the year a series of storms in December just kept dumping heavy snow through December, including 10 inches of snow alone on Christmas Eve.
December ’96 was capped by a massive storm right after Christmas. Fueled by what’s known as a “Pineapple Express”, and now called the less-fun “atmospheric river”, the Northwest was pounded. Buildings collapsed, floods ensued, and people were stranded for days. It was the year ice jams backed up in the Blackfoot River, threatening to breach the old Milltown Dam.
As pointed out by the veteran Missoula meteorologist Erin Yost, Missoula has received over 22 inches of snow in the 4th quarter of 2022. It’s even more impressive when you consider the snow didn’t really kick in until early November after record warmth lasted nearly all the way through October.
Erin notes that the total is not only the most since the “big snow” year of ’96, but ties 2022 with 1973, another year of big storms in the Northwest, as the 7th “snowiest” since we started keeping official records in 1893.
And it’s not just Missoula.
Many of the Snotel sites across Montana are showing some impressive totals. Essex, on the southern border of Glacier National park, has received the most snow in Montana at more than 75 inches.
Could we see another 1996?
What gives me pause for thought is that, while we are in meteorological winter, which started on December 1st, the winter solstice is still a few days away. There’s not only some significant snow creeping into next week’s forecast from the National Weather Service, especially in Northwest Montana, but a lot of cold weather still to come.
Missoula already has 45.8 inches of snow for 2022, which is “above normal” for the year with two weeks left to go. However, that’s still short of ’96, when NWS Missoula recorded more than 54 inches in December and a season total that winter season of 111.2 inches.
So could we see another winter as bad as 26 years ago? I’d dust off the Nintendo 64, prepare some bruschetta and lay in a case of Red Bull, and get ready to welcome in the New Year by partying like it’s 1996.
Read More: Missoula Growth Putting the Pinch on Snowplowing
LOOK: The most extreme temperatures in the history of every state
Keep reading to find out individual state records in alphabetical order.