SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

But It's a Dry Rain!
By Dave Kiffer


November 19, 2007
Monday AM

One of the most interesting weather related phrases I have ever heard is "yes, but it is a dry heat."

jpg Dave Kiffer

No, no one ever says that in Ketchikan. Here all weather, whether it is zero degrees or 100 degrees, is some form of wet.

But you frequently hear it to justify the "skin bake" they call weather in places like Las Vegas (which is Spanish for "more sunscreen, por favor" or Phoenix (which is named after a mythical bird which is pretty much always on fire).

I remember one warm day in Las Vegas many, many, many years ago where I was broiling away under 119-degree skies and one of my co-travelers said "Thank God, it's a dry heat."

All I could think about was the fact that it was so hot that the mosquitoes were exploding into little aerial flame balls right before my eyes. Thank Vulcan, indeed.

But when you raise an eyebrow to the "dry heat" statement, it is usually followed by some fallderall about its "not the heat, it's the humidity."

Well, sure. But have you ever heard someone complain about the "humidity" when it was 35 degrees out? I rest my case.

That "humidity" argument is also used to explain why 85 degrees above zero can feel down right pleasant in Los Angeles and yet the same temperature is unbearable in Ketchikan, which has a permanent humidity approaching 1500 percent.

I don't pretend to be any sort of "humidologist" (also called a 'humidor' in some circles) but those sorts of folks (the ones who come up with such cute little formulas as AH = Mw over Va or RH = P(h20) over P*(h20) X 100 %!!!) claim there is something to the humidity being what makes us uncomfortable.

The general feeling is that when it gets really hot, you want to sweat and when the humidity is also really high then you sweat and the perspiration just sticks to you rather than floating off into the cosmos. Hence, you feel even more uncomfortable.

Which makes is a good thing that it doesn't get to be 130 degrees in places where there is high humidity. Otherwise the inhabitants would probably ooze molten lava out their pores rather than sweat.

Somehow this all brings to mind one time when Ketchikan was experiencing one of those little "implied" rainfalls which are also called Oregon "Mist" (by comparison, a Ketchikan "mist" in anything where the rainfall is less than one inch per hour).

A friend and I were walking along in the "mist" and I voiced a complaint and my friend responded "but it's really a dry rain."

Uh huh. That's one for the oxymoron hall of fame. But I digress.

Actually, this whole column up to this point has been a digression. What I meant to talk about was how I had another recent experience in how people elsewhere are too freaked out by the rain.

Or shall I say, they are unable to differentiate between a cold rain and warm rain and this leads to some pretty odd responses.

For example, in Ketchikan we can not allow a little rain to stop our activities. We go hiking in the rain, we go camping in the rain, we go fishing in the rain.

If we didn't do these things in the rain then we would not do them at all. We would sit in our houses, waiting for the rain to stop. We would spend the rest of our lives sitting in our houses.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was swimming in the ocean with my son Liam (obviously not in Ketchikan, but if I was any more specific it would be bragging!!). It was a lovely day, the temperature was in the mid 80s. The water temperature was in the low 70s. It was almost like taking a bath, I just didn't have any soap.

Suddenly, it started to rain.

Actually, it was even less than an Oregon mist. It kinda felt like the clouds were just shedding a bit of perspiration, only it smelled better than that. Truth be told it was more like a bit of morning dew on the old noggin than a spot of rain.

At least it seemed that way to the two Ketchikanites at the beach, my son and me.

The other folks immediately sloshed out of the water, ran to gather up their towels and then headed for their cars or the nearest picnic shelter.


They were already wet. They had been swimming in the water, for Neptune's sake!

And - drum role please - it was a WARM rain!!

But by the way they all skeedaddled off you would have thought someone had shouted "Shark" or "Free Shave Ice at Brenneke's!"

In a matter of minutes, the rain - such as it was - stopped. But it was a good 20 minutes before the bathers returned to the beach. Didn't want to risk getting wet, you know.

My son and I continued to splash about in the surf.

As we were leaving, I turned to my son.

"Wasn't that fun, Liam, swimming in rain?"

He looked at me like I had sprouted an extra eyeball.

"What rain?" he asked. "It wasn't raining."

An Alaskan boy through and through, ready to brave any storm in order to recreate.

But then again, it was a "dry" rain.



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

Dave Kiffer ©2007

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