SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column - Commentary

A Brief Chat with NOAA


September 05, 2020
Saturday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
Well, that was an exciting last week of August, whew!

jpg  Dave Kiffer

In a summer that shall not be named (okay, okay, 2020), that had more disappointment (no 4th of July, no Blueberry Festival) and less money (where have all the COVID ships gone, long time passing) than we have seen in decades, we finally had a bit of excitement as Ketchikan drizzled and dripped its way to an all-time summer rainfall record of slightly more than 47 inches.

During the later stages as the rain gauges not so slowly filled up, someone asked me how long the previous record had stood, no doubt expecting it to be one of those time honored marks, like Babe Ruth's homerun record, that had lasted decades and been seared into the minds of generations of locals.

Actually, the previous mark lasted exactly three years. In 2017, there was a dribble under 47 inches recorded.. That year had broken the 1967 record of 41 inches in June, July and August. But given the fact that 2017 was a year in the Pre-COVID Era where we were not socially distanced from our Alaskan Ambers at the local dispensaries, we really didn't notice the rain than much.

(Just a quick aside here. Growing up in Ktown I never thought much about summer "rainfall records." Summer in Ketchikan meant rain. Just like Fall in Ketchikan meant rain, Winter in Ketchikan meant rain and Spring in Ketchikan meant rain. But then I grew up (sprouted like a weed in all that precipitation) and I spent time elsewhere. I learned that other places actually have summers in which rain does not fall. It is still hard to wrap my waterlogged noggin around such a concept.)

Anyway, 2017 was indeed bad (especially in August) but we got a perverse joy out of the watching the 1 million cruise passengers splashing about, desperately crowding under the awnings, waiting for the rain to pass.

Cruise passenger under an awning - Excuse me sir, do you live here?

Me (obviously a local, not wearing a florescent rain bag): Yes, how may I help you?

Passenger - When will it stop raining? I have to get back to my ship.

Me - Eventually.

Passenger - Well, how long has it been raining?

Me - I don't know.

Passenger - How is that possible?

Me - I'm only 58!

But I digress.

Meanwhile, back to 20....uh the year that future generations will consider the height of taboo to even mention. 

First a few acknowledgements!

I think we need to start by thanking all the citizens of Ketchikan. This was truly a group effort. Especially near the end. A deluge of a thousand fathoms starts with the first drop, etc etc etc.  Every person on this stinkin' rock did their part to bring about this historic event.

Second, I want to thank all those of you following along elsewhere for your help. Once again we saw the true power of "thoughts and prayers" to effect great change in our world. Well, at least our local soggy sector of it. Especially when it looked like we might fall short at the end. Knowing that the "Wetness Warriors" were constantly beseeching NOAA on our behalf was a great comfort to us.

And, of course, NOAA. We need to thank NOAA. How could we not thank NOAA??

NOAA, of course, is that great deity in the sky (well, in Juneau anyway) that seems to control all things precipitational. Yes, NOAA does have some sort of "flunky" named NWS that is a little more hands on. But how more appropriate - for us Rainforesters - to have someone (something?) called NOAA calling the shots. Believe me, NOAA knows all there is to know about 40 days and 40 nights and life changing deluges.

After all, it was NOAA, who after the  Great Deluge of 2017, decided to help us out a little in Our Fair Salmon CIty by cutting back on the length of summer to - obviously - cut back on the length of weather misery.

NOAA decreed (anyone - anything - that has the power to "decree" is A-Okay in my book!) that henceforth and forthwith, summer in Ketchikan no longer be three months long. Starting in 2018, summer in Ketchikan officially became three weeks. We thought that would take care of any future generational deluges. We were wrong!

Hmm, as usual, I digress again.

Although I have lived under the saturated supremacy of NOAA for my entire life. I have never met the great being. So I rectified that this week as soon as we topped the most recent milestone. It was not easy, let me tell you, to get "The Great Torrent" on a Zoom chat.

Me: Wow, that was a wet one.

NOAA: What was a wet one?

Me: That last summer?

NOAA: Oh that, I'm just getting started.

Me: Uh okay, moving right along .... As the last of what the Bible calls the "Antideluvian Patriarchs....."

NOAA: "Anti-delugian" patriarch? I can assure you, young man, that I am not against deluges. I love deluges. I really, really love deluges. That is why I bestow so many on my chosen people, the Delugians of Ketchikan."

Me: Uh, right, sure. Okay. just why then is Ketchikan so blessed?

NOAA: Blessings fall in direct proportion one's ability to "absorb" them.

Me: Huh?

NOAA: My Ketchikan Delugians have been "bragging" about their "water rights" for decades. You know how your father used to always say "you want to cry, well, I'll give you something to cry about?"

Me: Uh, yeah."

NOAA: Well, the last few years have been something to brag about, right?

Me: Okay, let's move on.  So since we have now had two blessed "events" in the past four years, maybe it is time to have a little more sunshine to balance it out?

NOAA: I understandeth that my meteorological bureaucracy, NWS, is working on that as we speaketh.

Me: How so?

NOAA: We have decided to make it almost impossible to break the 2020 record.

Me: How can you possibly do that? (a key to being a great journalist is asking "incisive" questions).

NOAA: We have decided that the "Summer of 2021" will no longer consist of three weeks!

Me: And?

NOAA: It will consist of three, non-consecutive, days. June 8, July 26, and August 3.

Me: Why those days?

NOAA: Our files show they are the three driest days of the year.  The most it has rained on any of those days is 5 inches.

Me: Yes, some would consider that dry.

NOAA :  We originally thought that for ease of calendaring we should have consecutive days. But that risked the possibility of a rain squall coming in and raining all THREE days of summer. Can you imagine the local "bragging" then?

Me: Sure, I get that. But back in the day, didn't y'all just trot out a rainbow and declare there would be no more deluges to plague mankind?

There is a brief pause. It's sounds like NOAA is trying to stifle laughter. Either that or an enormous thunderclap is taking place on that end of the conversation.

NOAA: Thank you so much, I haven't had such a good bellystorm in years. My, my, my. That was a good one.

Me: So I gather the answer to no more deluges is no?

NOAA: Yeah, I'll take a hard pass on that one.

And so ended my condensatory convo with NOAA.

Here's hoping we don't get another deluge during the three-day summer of 2021.




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