By Dave Kiffer
January 20, 2006
I think we'd all grown a little tired of the constant "drip-drip-drip" of news stories about Seattle's recent swim toward a record of consecutive rainy days.
The deluge of stories made me think that perhaps the mayor of Seattle's name was Noah and that Pacific Northwest was really somewhere in the Sumerian province of Shuruppak, but of course, I digress.
It turned out that Seattle fell a few drizzles short of its all-time record when the rain stopped on the 28th day, off of the mark. Some Seattle residents actually expressed disappointment that the old streak - like Joltin' Joe DiMaggio's - lives on. Bummer.
But the "runoff" from the wet-hand ringing stories even reached me in dry-as-a-bone Anaheim, California last week.
It was another fine, sunny (70 degree) day in paradise (Liam was hanging with his homeboys - Pluto and Mickey) and I opened up the Los Angeles Times to see the following front page headline: "It's Raining in Seattle. No, Really, This is News"
The story prattled on and on about the fact that Seattle was within a few days of its all-time consecutive day rain streak (33 in 1953) and that all manner of terrible things were happening because of all the inclement weather. Reservoirs were overflowing, hillsides were slipping, and people were getting inconveniently wet in the lines outside of Starbucks.
Anyone who follows the Seattle media knows that this weather run had been local talk for the previous week or so, but it was interesting to see the how the issue was playing to Southern California folks whose idea of a Biblical deluge was anything more than about two inches of rain each millenium.
The story even quoted a Seattle website that offered the following joke: A newcomer arrives in Seattle on a rainy day. He gets up the next day and it's still raining. Same thing on the third day. He sees a little boy on the street and - in despair- asks if it ever stops raining in Seattle. The kid replies "How do I know? I'm only six."
Sound familiar? Of course it does, we Ketchikanites have been using that joke for decades. Years ago, I found a version of it in a Ketchikan Chronicle in the mid 1930s. I'm sure we didn't invent it, but it sure doesn't float my boat to see someone in Seattle pretending that they did!
Of course, we went through our own weather whine a little earlier with the 39 day run in October and November of last year. It paled in comparison to our all-time dripathon, 101 days in 1953. That was the same year when Seattle set its record of 33 days. It must have been a miserable winter and fall in the Northwest.
But even though Ketchikan and Seattle can contest the origin of the joke about the boy too young to remember sunshine, the real truth is that we both are middlers when it comes to suffering the truly wettest weather on Earth.
In fact, neither Ketchikan nor Seattle is even the wettest place in their respective states.
On average, Centralia, Washington gets more rain that Seattle (so does New York City, but that's another story). Some parts of the Olympic National Forest get twice as much rainfall as Seattle as well.
Ketchikan has always prided itself on being the wettest part of Alaska, but did you know that Little Port Walter on the southern tip of Baranof Island averages 220 inches of rain each year whenever stats are kept? Most people don't.
In fact, these days Alaska weather watchers think the wettest part of the state just might an uninhabited area in the mountains south of Yakutat that shows up in projections as having more that 450 inches of a rainfall each year. No one lives there (thank God) so no one really knows.
If that projection was to bear out it would be in the running for wettest spot on earth, a title that is open to dispute between at least two other places, Mount Waialeale in Hawaii and Cherrapunji, India.
Just how wet are those places? Just about twice as wet as Little Port Walter on average, 450 inches plus. They make an interesting contrast. The Hawaii site is the ultimate in slow and steady, while the Indian town is the ultimate downpour.
Mount Waialeale once had 227 straight days of rain. On average, it rains about 335 days a year there. Even if it just rained a quarter of an inch each day that would still add up. It is the perfect Chinese water torture, but you don't really notice or care because, hey, you are in Hawaii, dude!
Cherrapunji, India prefers to knock people to their knees during the yearly three month monsoon season. Nearly all 450 inches falls then. There are several historical days when the 24 hour rainfall has topped 50 inches and approximately 3 inches of rainfall was recorded in a little over two minutes during one storm in 1978.
If you think Ketchikan is a wet place to live, just remember that in the Summer Monsoon season of 1860, more than 1,000 inches of rain ( that's 83.3 feet, people!) was recorded in Cherrapunji, in three months! So put that in your water pipe and smoke it.
None of this, of course, is to make light of the recent rainfall travails in the Emerald City. I would never, ever, ever want to imply that I thought they were exaggerating the troubles caused by their wetter than normal winter.
And, also of course, I wouldn't want to imply that residents of Our Fair Salmon City were going just a wee bit overboard when we had a wetter than normal year last year. Nearly 200 inches is nothing to sneeze at.
It's just that 1,000 inches over three months (June-July-August) means 333 a month or 10 plus inches a day. And you thought wet Ketchikan summers were depressing.
Contact Dave at email@example.com
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