SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Rain on the Brain


September 07, 2011

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska -
The other day, a friend asked me when her daughter, who is thinking about an outdoor wedding in Ketchikan, should schedule it.
jpg Dave Kiffer

Natch, she asked me because she knows I obsess over local weather stats and have an encyclopedic knowledge of just how dreadful the weather has been in Ketchikan for the past century.

Yes, I know I should have replied “she wants an outdoor wedding in Ketchikan, is she out of her mind?????????”

But, no, I just answered “July 15th.”

I often get asked by people about when the best time to visit Ketchikan is. These folks think that in Ketchikan there is a “dry” season and they would like to be here then. It’s a reasonable approach. Except in Ketchikan, the “dry” season is any time less than three inches is falling per 24 hours.

So, the answer is always, well, it can rain heavily any day of the year so you have just pick a date and hope.

Except for July 15.

How do I know?

If you peruse the NOAA historical weather stats as I do several times a day (yes, I need a better hobby), you will discover an interesting tidbit. There is only one date in Ketchikan’s history in which it has never, absolutely never, rained more than one inch of rain since weather stats started around 1910.

And that day is July 15. According to NOAA, the wettest July 15 ever was July 15, 1962 when it rained .81 of an inch.

I don’t know about you, but I would consider .81 of an inch to about as close to clear and sunny as Ketchikan ever gets. In fact, this year it would certainly qualify as a typical “summer” day. At the least, I would lather on 30 SPF for a .81 precip day.

Just for comparisons sake, there are a total of 40 dates in which the maximum historical rainfall is less than 2 inches. Oddly enough, that is a similar number to the number of days - 46 - in which the maximum recorded rainfall was more than 5 inches – which is the threshold I consider a deluge. The other 280 odd days of the year fall in the middle, between 2 and 5 inches of rain. For the record, I consider those days “partly cloudy” rather than “partly sunny.”

Perhaps, the most depressing stat on the NOAA website is the number of days in which the maximum precipitation is more than 6 inches – 21. That means that at least 21 times in Ketchikan’s history more than 6 inches of rain has fallen in a single day on Our Fair Salmon City.

Glub, glub, glub.

I have to say “at least” because the stats only record the maximum on any given day. So, on a day, say like October 10, where the most recorded was 8.77 inches in 1977, you know there probably been other October 10s over the past century where it was well above 5 or 6 or 7.254 inches.

Besides that profoundly “pluvios” day in 1977, there is one other date, August 5, 1920 in which more than 8 inches (8.07) was recorded. Just quickly scanning the record, I find that Aug 4, 1920; Aug. 25, 1964; Sept. 22, 1949; Nov.18, 1917 and Dec. 19, 1962 were days when more than 7 inches fell on us.

Considering how much “hoo-haw” there was about that 4.6 inch “flood” we had a couple of weeks ago, those days must have been particularly “hyetal.”

A recent Saturday in which it rained heavily enough to drench soccer and football parents alike for several hours, the NWS says it only rained 2.18 inches. But then that was at the airport which qualifies as the local “banana belt” except, of course, when I am trying to get out of town.

Only 2.18 inches on a day where it was raining heavily at 10 am and still raining heavily at 6 pm. Go figure. Clearly a case of “your results may vary.” I know mine certainly did.

So, if anyone else out there is planning a future outdoor wedding in Ketchikan, this must all sound pretty “drenching.”

As well it should because if you are really set on outdoor wedding then I recommend Aruba which has – according to its tourism website, “372” sunny days per year (must be on the metric system).

But if you are bound and determined to get married with a large group of people not speaking Dutch, (although Ketchikan-ese can sound remarkably similar to Dutch especially when both speaker and listener are at the Arctic Bar or freezing outdoors through a wet wedding), then you take your chances in Ketchikan other than on July 15th.

Going back to the archives, July and August only have a total of five days that have never had more than two inches of rain. It appears to be just as likely to get a sunny day in August as it is February.  

Of course, the temperature differential would need to be taken into account in February. Anything approaching zero degrees Fahrenheit is likely to fuse the wedding band permanently to the skin.

But then again, that’s really the point isn’t it?

Interestingly enough, June is the best month for the likelihood of the days of least rain. More than 12 different days have a had a maximum recorded rainfall of under 2 inches.

Of course, this past June, 21 of the 30 days had measurable precipitation.

I wonder what it will be like on July 15, 2012 in Aruba?  

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