SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Still Drizzly After All These Years
By Dave Kiffer


December 02, 2005

This column is about what didn't happen Monday, November 28, 2005

There was no measurable precipitation. It was the first day since October 19 that there was no precipitation.

That's 39 straight days of rain, for those of you playing along at home.

Is that a record? I don't know. I looked back through about 20 years worth of weather stats on the Alaska NOAA website and didn't find anything that long. It would take a true weather stat geek to find out for sure. Any takers?

jpg Ketchikan's rain gauge

Ketchikan's Rain Gauge
File Photo by Gigi Pilcher

I do know that in the early 1950s, we had one year in which there was 327 days of rain out of 365, but I can't tell what the longest unbroken streak was that year. Probably about 15 minutes or so.

What has been interesting is that even with this near Biblical deluge, we are still caught up in a bit of exaggeration. Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard several people mention that it had been raining for more than 60 days.

I even heard that figure tossed out at a recent Borough Assembly meeting to explain why some of the landscaping is behind schedule at the new Fawn Mountain Elementary School. When I pointed out that - at the time - it had barely been 30 days of rain, everyone kind of sighed, as if the reality wasn't nearly as sexy as the truth.

This is not unusual. If we have a bit of a heat wave, say mid to upper 80s, folks start to complain that its been weeks without rain.

Whenever we have more than a couple of feet of snow in a winter, it suddenly becomes the snowiest since "that time in the mid 1940s."

Add in an unusually intense breeze and we are scrambling to place its historical context (worse than Thanksgiving of '68 or not?).

What leads to this fixation on weather superlatives? And why need to gild the rain soaked lily?

I suspect it is because we only have one season here (early wet, middle wet, late wet and next wet) and the relentless sameness of the drip, drip, drip causes us to not-so-subconsciously pine for weather records. After all, why would we - as smart, mobile, 21st Century people - live somewhere so dreary?

Well, it's not just "dreary," it's the "dreariest it has been in 75 years!"

If you can't brag about the weather in Ketchikan (and by extension, your personal toughness for surviving it) then what can you brag about?

And if the weather isn't truly historic, then what's the harm in a little exaggeration to make it so? After all, we are fishing town and "stretching the truth" can certainly apply to more than length and poundage.

So, has it really been an unusually wet Fall? The answer to that is an unequivocal yes. The stats - in this case - don't lie.

If you start on the first of September and go up to the 28th of November, 87 days elapsed. And it rained on 79 of those days (just for good measure, it also rained the last seven days of August!).

Granted, on some of those days there was just a trace or as little as .07 of an inch. But on at least eight days in that period, there was more than 2 inches of rain. That qualifies as a deluge in both Sitka and Juneau, which felt it necessary to put out stories on the Associated Press wire when the local rainfall topped that amount this Fall. With pictures of waterlogged parking lots and "mudslided" roads as well.

On November 8, 2005 Ketchikan had slightly more than six inches of rain (6.05 inches to be precise).

As I remember, only a few storm drains backed up and there were some spectacular waterfalls on the Third Avenue bypass (AKA Great Wall of Ketchikan).

No parking lots or cars were submerged and no hillsides came slipping down onto major thoroughfares.

It was just another above-average day of rainfall in an above-average wet Fall. Ho hum. Nothing to write home about.

Nothing like Oct. 15, 1986 when we had 6.4 inches of rainfall. Now, that was a deluge.



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

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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