It is literally steamy outside. The air is reasonably heavy but the air is so filled with humidity it is hazy and almost smoky. We’ve had humidity before, but I don’t ever recall it being visible like this. Very cool. Luckily it is not too warm (70s).
Superbowl Sunday ended with mixed snow and rain falling outside. We’d watched the game at mom and dads with the rest of the family, and like most of the nation were shocked how the Pats came back to win (BTW there are several “anatomy of the comeback” stories that recounts the play by play, but I would be more interested in what tweaks the brilliant Billichek made, and also knowing if he suspected that he could wear down the Falcons at the end. Reading about him, I truly think he is a genius). The forecast had been updated in the morning for snow overnight, so I was not surprised by the mixed snow. The snow didn’t really start to stick until late, and Monday morning there was an inch in Ballard (and more than a foot in some of the suburbs), although it was pretty wet (but pretty, and was stuck to all the trees). School has been canceled for the past two days, and although the snow is virtually gone in the city it still is pretty treacherous in the greater area. There is a slight chance of snow tomorrow morning, but it sounds like it will warm up quite quickly with an inch or two of rain, which is a lot for Seattle over a day or two.
We are in the most challenging part of Seattle’s weather year – where it has been wet for months and the rain mostly goes away but it stays gray for up to another four months. Rain isn’t the depressing part of Seattle, since it really doesn’t rain all that much in terms of inches per year — what is depressing are the strings of gray days this time of year.
Today is cold by Seatttle standards (about freezing), and it is cloudy, but the sun is shining like a golden orb through the clouds and some flakes of snow are falling from the sky although the ground is still dry. We don’t get many days like this in Seattle, especially during Christmas week, and it is pretty. Yesterday was flat out clear and cold, and tomorrow is supposed to have some light snow then light rain.
In my lifetime there have been very few white Christmases. In 1983 they forecasted heavy snow but it came in as heavy rain instead, in 1990 we already had a lot of snow (a foot or more) by Seattle standards and it dumped another 6 inches early Christmas morning (i.e. overnight between Christmas Eve and Christmas), 1996 it snowed a *lot* the day after Christmas, 1997 it snowed Christmas Eve morning but melted by afternoon, and 2008 we had some residual snow from the previous week’s fairly heavy snows.
In my lifetime, most heavy snow periods last 1 to 5 days maximum. For example, in 1980 it snowed a lot on Monday and Tuesday, was clear and cold Wednesday and Thursday, and rained on Friday. That is pretty typical for Seattle’s so-called snowstorms. If I remember correctly, the years where we’ve had snow stick around for more than a week was the 1985 pre-Thanksgiving storm(s) that lasted over 2.5 weeks, the 1990 pre-Christmas storm that lasted from December 18th until about New Year’s, and the 2008 storm(s) that started in Mid-December and lasted until just after Christmas. That is about it.
Most Seattle heavy snows aren’t really forecasted until last minute — they’ll say for a few dasys “this storm is going to miss us but we might get a little snow” then the day of or day before they’ll modify it to, “Oh wait, the storm is sliding farther north/sout than we thought and we’re going to have heavy snow.” The 1990 storm they copletely misforecast (“maybe an inch or two” became a foot with high winds and freezing temperatures). In 1996 they forecasted heavy snow north of us for several days until 12 hours before the next wave hit they changed the forecast to heavy snow with the high temperature before dawn – that was fun!
I don’t know if they are outthinking themselves, using new systems or suffering from the changes of global warming, but our Seattle forecasters are missing the boat. Several weeks ago, they completely whiffed on overpredicting a dangerous wind storm that barely had any impact at all, and overall the past few years they seem to underpredict the temperature on warm days by 5 degrees. But they also seem to be consistently missing predictions on timing of storms and the amount of rain. For example, today was supposed to be rain, but between .1 and .25 inches, which isn’t much more than a sprinkle. But is raining buckets out there and has been all morning. Last week, they did something similar and I wore the wrong pair of shoes. They need to start putting more information in their forecasts, such as what all the variables are (rather than just saying “Rain”) so people can look at the information and decide for themselves.
Seattle is a mild area. There are only a few days of the year where it is hot (90s) or cold (30s), and despite our reputation for rain usually we are gray and drizzly with most of our rain coming in light-to-moderate storms in November and December, with some showers in the Spring. But occassionally we’ll get some pretty good systems in, usually one or two a year where winds pick up to 30 MPH and we get an inch or two of rain over a 24 hour period. It has always been this way, and I’ve lived in Seattle for all of my nearly 50 years of life.
But a strong system and the remnants of a Typhon are hitting us this week over a few days. Over night and this morning it rained steadily about as hard as it will over several hours (it will rain harder during SPring showers but only for 15 – 20 minutes), and the winds last night were 30+. A major windstorm is forecasted to hit us tomorrow, with wind gusts at 60 MPH, the strongest we’ve seen in 10 years (since 2006). Quite a few times these “big storms,” especially in regards to wind or snow, have a way of falling short of forecasts, so we’ll see. I remember a big predicted windstrom in December 1995 that were forecasted to approach gusts of 70 MPH, so they closed schools early, and it ended up being just a regular windstorm – strong, but not super strong. I think it is remarkably hard to predict wind and snow in Seattle due to mountains East and West, the Pacific Ocean plus Puget Sound Convergence zones. The one time I can remember a wind storm being about as advertised was the windstorm of 2006, and many of our biggest snowstorms usually have been predicted as “a few inches” of snow that suddenly strengthen or veer this way (also, many big snowstorms that were forecasted never materialized).
We’ll see what happens tomorrow. The grocery store was already crowded at 7 AM this morning, though 🙂
Wife M’s aunt J used to talk about the “hurricane” that hit Oregon. For example, there were a number of giant trees in the bottom of the lake where she lived, and she’d say they’d been blown down during the hurricane. I was always told that hurricanes didn’t hit the Pacific Northwest, so thought she was losing her faculties (i.e. she was getting older), but then a few years ago I read about the exceptionally strong storm (bordering on a hurricane) that rolled along the coast in 1962. Today is the anniversary of that storm, when 80 MPH winds hit Seattle and 9 people were killed in the state of Washington.
There have been a few very strong (scary) wind storms (not hurricanes) I remember in my life time. There was a strong one that hit Seattle in the fall of 1981 or 1982, when my parents took us down to Shilshole beach to experience the wind. And there was the strong storm that hit Seattle on Inauguration Day 1993. But the strongest of them all — the only one where I actually worried about our house and safety — was the December storm of 2006, when I thought our chimney was going to topple over. I lay awake for a couple of hours in the night listening to it, wondering how houses could withstand that, until I could hear it finally start to abate around 1 or 2 AM. The wind was literally howling that night, and sounded like a community of banshees. What I remember most about that storm otherwise is the torrential rain the night before, when a poor woman drowned in her basement when a flashflood hit their house. It was surreal, to drown in your basement in the heart of Seattle, and I am sure her loved ones have never forgotten that, and I won’t either.
I never think of us here in Washington having killer flash floods, not like in some parts of the world. But according to The Seattle Times, in 1925 cloudburst near Wenatchee sent a 20′ wall of water into a nearby town, taking a 3-story hotel off its foundation, wiping out trains in the local yard, and killing 16 people. I can’t imagine – watching a squall from the relative comfort of your hotel room, then a short time later a wall of water sends your room crashing into a torrent. Another case for the You-Never-Know file.