SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


By Dave Kiffer


October 25, 2014
Saturday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
It is interesting just how interested folks are in rainfall.

More than any other climatological event, rainfall chatter seems to pour more metaphorical water over our metaphorical dams.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Either there isn’t enough in California or the 100th Meridian or the Sahara Desert or there is too much elsewhere.

Like right here in Our Fair Salmon City.

As you read this, we may still be in the midst of a long visit by the rain God, Dripetus. As I write this, it has now been 38 days since the last visit of his cousin Droughtus.

Although that is the longest touch of rain in 2014, it is not a particularly long period for Ketchikan. Just about every year we suffer at least one 30 day plus shower, sometimes two. Every so often we top 40 straight days of rain. Then all the Noah jokes come out.

Which reminds me, I haven’t seen my cubit measuring stick lately. I’ll just have to go back to the traditional way using the span of my elbow to the tip of my extended middle figure.

Any measurement that uses the tip of your middle finger pretty much says all you need to know about how most of us feel about rain.

But I digress.

Anyway, in these here parts, what we do about the “rain is mainly complain.” And we also get more than a little smug when other folks kvetch about their rain.

Particularly our big city cousins in Seattle. You remember a few years ago, 2006, the Seattle media was awash with stories about the “Biblical deluge” splashing down on the Emerald City. The clouds finally ran out at 27 straight days. Oh the humanity.

There was much comparison going on. The all-time Seattle record was 33 days in 1953.The coast of Oregon once had 79 straight days!


Of course, little old Ketchikan was mentioned. Someone at the National Weather Service had actually gotten all bleary eyed looking at weather data and determined that good old Ketchikan had once had 101 consecutive days of precipitation, back in 1953.

That was the same year Seattle had its 33 day deluge. Must have been a heckuva year. And I’m sure the political pundits of the day blamed it all on Ike and his ill-fated attempt at enacting Eisenhowercare.

So, good old Ketchikan has had rain storms three times as long as Seattle’s longest. No surprise there.

And yet, even Ketchikan is not the wettest place around.

Our big 200 inch rainfall in 1949 pales (or pails and buckets as the case may be) in comparison to Little Port Walter, on Southeast Baranof, that gets something like 225 inches a year.

There is also a place on the coast north of Yakutat that weather satellites guestimate gets around 350 inches of rain each year.

Of course, if you to go to Hawaii, you can find a mountain on Kauai (Mount Dripadripadripadripa) that gets 460 inches a year.

So why does get Ketchikan the notoriety?

Because we are the wettest place in America where anyone is actually foolish enough to try to live.

Yeah, yeah, I know that Little Port Walter has a year round population of three, but really, you can probably find three people durn fool enough to live in a volcano if you look hard enough. So LPW doesn’t count.

Now is there a real town somewhere that gets more rainfall than Ketchikan? Yes, but you have to travel to India to find it.

Mawsynram has a population of 350, which means there is more than 1 inch of rain for each resident. The average rainfall is 467 inches a year. Several places in Colombia claim slightly higher numbers but every time scientists try to investigate they get waylaid by drug lords and forced to work in meth labs.

Mawsynram even had what is indisputably the worst weather year ever. In 1985, more than 1,000 inches of rain fell. No, that is not a typo. 1,000 freeking inches of rain. Imagine three inches of rain a day, every day of the year.

Of course, most of it fell during the two month, summer monsoon, some 300 inches in two months. Yes, that would be five inches a day. Every day. For 60 days.

Feel better now about our little drizzles?

I thought you might.

But, enough about those sorry folks in Mawsynram.

We prefer to wallow in the big numbers of our own downpour. It makes us somehow tougher to be able to sneer at those pikers elsewhere who wouldn’t know a real Helly Hansen rain suit for a from a seersucker one!

So how long has been the longest stretch of "wet" in Ketchikan's history?

Good question.

I don’t rightly know.

But, after reading about the 101 day misting in USA Today, I checked the weather stats and indeed it started raining on Oct. 3, 1953 and didn’t stop until Jan. 13, 1954, a span of 101 days.

Yes, I know that some of you are thinking "maybe some of that was snow."

You are so clever.

But I checked the temps for those days and it almost never got below the low 40s and the upper 30s during that span, so I'm guess it was "liquid sunshine" and not "frozen sunshine."

But was there an even longer span of soggitude?

Does it matter?

We can all agree that three consecutive months of rain is beyond brutal.

Think of how grumbly we get when we get 20 or 30 straight days. More than 100 days would probably have us heading for much higher ground. Or at least tiring out our middle fingers, as we "cubit" into the wee hours.

One wonders what Noah would have done during a 100 day storm.

I’m pretty sure it would have involved the tip of his middle finger.

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