SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

A Drip Off the Old Block
By Dave Kiffer


July 09, 2007

Ketchikan, Alaska - My good friends in Lost Angeles are a little parched.

It seems they have just suffered through the driest weather "year" since records started being kept 130 years ago. As of June 30 (weather years are July 1 to June 30 in LA, go figure) a total of 3.21 inches of rain had fallen in the City of "Angles."

jpg Dave Kiffer

That's pretty dry, even for the kingdom of dry. Word has is that water rationing will be soon established. Something like "Beemers" can only be washed on even days and Mercedes on odd ones. After all, one does what one can.

I have a little experience in LA-LA Land droughts. I broke one in 1977. That was the year I bundled up my saxophone and headed to So-Cal for school.

From 1967 to 1977, LA had enjoyed - up to that time - the longest sustained "drought" since records had been kept - at that time - for 100 years.

Fortunately, I came to the rescue.

My Father was a "rainmaker." Or at least he had the "luck" of bringing his bio-clime with him at all times.

Remember the character in the Lil Abner cartoons who always had the rain clouds over his head, Joe Btfsplk? That was my Dad.

On the rare occasions we could pry Dad away from his belovedly drizzly SE Alaska, he would insist on bringing his inclement weather with him.

I remember one particularly dreadful trip when we stopped in Virginia City, Nevada only to see the worst "cloudburst" in fifty years fill the streets with two foot deep runoff in the streets

Natch, we had been concerned about what the hot desert weather would do to Dad's balding pate. No worries. Dad was clearly in his (underwater) element.

So, no surprise that I would be a "drip" of the old block, so to speak.

Anyway, the decade before I moved to LA, they had been averaging something like six inches of rain a year. That was less than half the normal 15 inches. I must repeat that. Fifteen (15) inches a year. Or about the same rainfall as in three good October days in Ketchikan, but as usual I digress.

So things were a bit too balmy in Beautiful Downtown Burbank to say the least.

Well, I fixed that, let me tell you.

In December of 1977 alone , it rained more than 12 inches! Unfortunately, that meant that all the hillsides that had burned off the summer before ( two of LA's four seasons are called "Fire" and "Mud") turned into mudslides. One particularly gruesome day most of the Verdugo Hills Cemetery washed down into residential areas. I can take no responsibility for collateral damage.

By the spring of 1978, so much rain had fallen (more than 40 inches!) that everything was green and blooming and all 3 million residents of the greater Hollyweird basin were sneezing their heads off from the pollen. Once again, just more unintended consequences!

The next two years were similarly wet (there was actually steady water in the LA River), so I considered my good dead done and moved elsewhere.

Over the years, I have also broken dry weather patterns in Boston and Casper, Wyoming. My wife is still hankering to relocate me to New Mexico one of these days. One should be careful what they wish for!

I'm not sure if my son Liam has inherited the rainmaker gene or not. I guess we'll find out sure when he heads off to college in 12 years. Maybe we could do a test drive by sending him to stay with his grandpa in Albuquerque for a month or so.

Anyway, thinking about the LA rainfall - or lack there of - has got me thinking about our local precipitation. The general perception out there is that we've have a generally "nice" spring and summer thus far.

Is that really the case? Let's go to the tape!

According to the National Weather Service, May and June were unusually rain free. May was about an inch and a half below the normal rainfall of nearly 9 inches. The June figures are incomplete, but by mid month we had only counted two inches of rainfall. Fortunately, we got a little break from the killer doubt in early July, so we don't need to ration (F-10s on odd days, Chevy half-tons on evens) here. We even got a little bit wet on the 4th. Probably not as wet, though, as the all-time worst July 4th (1957) when 2.69 inches deluged down.

But I really don't need official stats to know if the weather has been OK. I just consult the Charlotte index.

If it has been a normal (wet and dreary) May and June, I can count on my wife Charlotte saying "you know, it's summer elsewhere!" half a dozen or so times. Thus far, she has only uttered the phrase once (on the 4th, natch) but then it is still early and when we have nice Junes, we almost always pay for it in August..

So, by the Charlotte index, it is officially a "nice" summer, thus far.

Fortunately (for our lake levels and hydroelectric generation), it was a little on the "damp" side earlier in the year.

How damp? We usually get around 33 inches of precipitation total in January, February and March. This year we approached 50 in the first three months.

But that was simply a prelude for April, which despite the "April Showers" nonsense is usually one of our "drier" months with less than 10 annual inches of precipitation.

This year - drum roll please - April provided Ketchikan with more than 23 inches of precipitation (cymbal crash or thunderclap!). That's a lot. In fact, that makes it the all-time wettest April on record.

A good chunk of that came on April 6, approximately 3.22 inches of precipitation! That was also the all-time record for that date in Ketchikan history!

If you have a good memory, at least back to the beginning of this column, you will also note that that day's rainfall was .01 more precipitation than Los Angeles received in all of last year.

Maybe it's time for either me or Liam to divert some of our local drizzle to Dodgerville.


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2007

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