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Thrive, Don't Bear Idaho Winters

Posted by on Saturday, December 28th, 2013 at 12:10pm.

September and early October in Boise are a dream with near perfect mild temperatures.  Mid October in Boise, Idaho is when the days start to cool and near-freezing nights begin to usher their way into the valley. With quite a few October days still reaching pleasant temperatures, it can still feel like those frigid winter temperatures are a long way off -- but they're sooner than you think. While the Treasure Valley doesn't experience the severe weather patterns we often see across the midwest and the North, we do have our share of chilly days throughout the winter, along with all the associated side effects. Whether you've lived in Boise, Idaho all your life or you've just moved in, here are some helpful cold weather facts so you can handle the season in style!

First, the extreme: the earliest measurable snowfall in Boise, Idaho happened October 12th, 2008 when 1.7 inches of snow fell on our unsuspecting state capital. Before that, the earliest recorded snowfall occurred October 12th, 1969 when a little more than an inch fell. This, of course, is nowhere near typical, but it goes to show that the weather can be unpredictable. While snowfall in October is highly unusual around Boise, what's even more unusual is the latest recorded snowfall that also occurred in 2008 -- on June 11th -- making summer that year absurdly short. Bogus Basin received 1.5 inches, Brundage Mountain got 7 inches and McCall, Idaho experienced an entire inch.  We can't really nail down what winter will bring for any specific year in Boise, but according to the long range weather report provided by the farmer's almanac, we can expect to see the first rain and weak snow showers around November 5 through the 10th. Only time will tell!

Boiseans live in a semi-arid steppe climate, the surrounding areas covered in shrublands, grasslands, croplands and forests.  The desert surroundings, low-elevation surroundings make Boise one of the warmest place in the state.  It has a warmer average temperature than almost all other major Idaho cities including Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Salmon, Sun Valley, McCall, Coeur d'Alene, Moscow, and Sandpoint.  It is only beat out by Lewiston, which is one of the cities with the lowest elevation in America.  So do not fear!  Many who come to Boise expecting extreme cold are pleasantly surprised by the Treasure Valley's mild, four-season climate.  

On a scientific level, temperature is a measure of the speed of oscillation of a substance's atoms and molecules. The slowest possible oscillation is the point scientists call absolute zero, which is calculated at the theoretical temperature of -459.67F. We think it's safe to say that Idahoans are glad we won't ever have to experience that. In fact, absolute zero has never actually been reached by scientists, though they've come close. At this temperature, there is absolutely no heat energy present, and it is the slowest that atoms and molecules can possibly move, but even at this temperature, there is still some movement. The coldest recorded temperature in Boise is -20 degrees, recorded on January 16th, 1888. In the state of Idaho, the coldest temperature ever recorded is -60.  Idaho's high-mountain backcountry is where these extremes are more likely.

Now for some fast facts.

Despite what you may  have heard, current thinking is that you don't lose heat through your head any faster than say, a bare arm or leg.

Flu season coincides with the cold weather season, which is why so many people believe you can catch the cold or flu from going out in the cold without a coat, with wet hair, or by sitting by a drafty window -- which are all just myths.  Careful flu prevention strategies, including ample hand washing, can help to lessen your chances of getting the flu.

If you consume regular hot drinks and hot meals, it will help you keep your energy levels up during chilly winter days.

You may have heard that cold weather exercise is bad for your health, but that simply isn't true. It's totally fine to exercise in the cold, but it's wise to warm up first to not strain cold muscles. For example, if you're going to vigorously shovel snow out of the driveway, don't jump out of your warm chair and get right to it. Your best bet is to ease into it slowly.

Frostbite isn't as hard to get as you might have thought. It usually occurs on your extremities, areas like your hands and feet. It happens when your skin becomes too cold or wet or both. Your skin will become slightly numb and then begin to blister. If this happens, then there may be damage and the skin may turn black. It can happen fast, in as little as thirty minutes while in extremely cold and wet conditions. And you don't need to be in negative temperatures to get yourself into trouble. The issue is how long bare skin is exposed. In particular, wet skin is very susceptible.

According to the National Safety Council, wool and polypropylene fabrics are the best at trapping warm air against your body, and do not retain moisture.

Shivering is an automatic movement of our body's muscles. It happens when our muscles contract and relax repeatedly in a very quick motion. Every time your muscle contracts, the muscle's cells burn more energy which produces heat.

You may have heard that it can be too cold to snow. In reality, there is nowhere on earth that can ever be literally too cold for snow, it can and does snow in absurdly low temperatures. But it is true that it's less likely to snow and is less abundant once ground level air temperature gets below zero. At these temperatures, there's a lack of water vapor in the cold air.

Snow is caused by water droplets that blow around in the clouds and freeze into crystals.

Snow or winter tires have tread patterns designed to dig down and bite into snow and ice. They are made from softer rubber compounds that retain their flexibility in cold weather, instead of becoming hard and brittle when the temperatures get really cold.  Chains are infrequently used in Idaho, even in the mountains.

Housing in and around the Boise Valley is eclectic and caters to a wide variety of lifestyles. Whatever your dream Idaho home is, Hughes Real Estate Group can help you navigate the market and get in touch with the homes and properties that fit your needs and wants. Our innovative online tools make the Idaho home search an easy one, regardless of whether it's your first time dabbling in the market or if you've beenaround the block a few times. Find what's available with our comprehensive MLS anywhere throughout Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Eagle, Kuna and Star -- plus all surrounding areas.

Hughes Real Estate Group is Boise, Idaho's definitive resource for all things real estate, whether you're buying or selling. Contact us anytime at (208) 571-7145 to begin your search for the perfect Idaho home!

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