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5 Weird Weather Facts About Tri-Cities From Teenage Expert Mark Ingalls

Tri-Cities
Flickr, pd_whitney

Mark Ingalls is a bit of a local celebrity. He’s a 17-year-old weatherman who can currently be heard on 102.7 KORD and KTCV at Tri-Tech. His weather predictions are favored over many professional services and are used by media across the region.

There are no tornadoes or massive hail storms in Tri-Cities. What keeps a meteorology nut from going nuts from boredom? Ingalls explains what’s weird about local weather:

 

1. Chinooks

A warm wind during winter. We’ve all experienced one, but Ingalls said from a meteorological point of view, they’re nothing less than miraculous. In Montana, a Chinook once shifted local temperatures from 52 below up to 48 degrees in one day.

2. Storm Blockers in Benton City

The hills around Benton City often stop thunderstorms blowing down the Yakima Valley. They shift toward Hanford and away and never hit the Tri-Cities. They’re the little mountains that could!

3. Occasionally horrendous winters

Tri-Cities have wonderfully mild winters. It’s a comfortable place to live. Mostly. Every few years a heavy storm blankets the area in snow, shuts down roads, covers everything with ice and hides the sun. Why? You’re never going to believe this: slightly cooler ocean temperatures off the coast of Mexico. That’s right. The temperature of the water near Mexico determines the kind of winter Tri-Cities will see.

4. Snow in one part of Tri-Cities and sunshine in another

How come some areas of the Tri-Cities occasionally get heavy frost — or even a few inches of snow — but not other areas? Ingalls says it’s elevation. The Horse Heaven Hills are at a higher elevation than the rest of the Tri-Cities. Cooler air sinks to lower elevations, so the slight change accounts for major differences in weather during winter.

5. Why is the Tri-Cities so dry, but not a true desert?

Mark Ingalls
Courtesy of Mark Ingalls

The Tri-Cities gets the same amount of rainfall as El Paso, Texas. But West Texas is so much drier because it does not benefit from irrigation, Ingalls said. The Rio Grande is much smaller than the three Rivers in the mid-Columbia region. Irrigation allows the Tri-Cities to enjoy nice foliage despite its low rainfall.

Why didn’t we talk about wind? Because Tri-Cities is not that windy, Ingalls said. His father is in the military so Ingalls has lived in many different cities and states. Both statistically and anecdotically the wind in Tri-Cities is not that bad. It’s often breezy, but that’s not the same, he said.

Ingalls graduates from Kamiakin High School June 2. He’ll then attend Columbia Basin College until the summer of 2014 when he’ll go on a church mission for two years. He then plans to attend the University of Utah and continue his weather service from Utah. “I have the knowledge you really only get form living here, so it’s not that hard at all.”

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