As we get ready to flip the calendar to 2005 (and I'll bet skiers have already cheated) we thought we'd take a look back at the stories that made weather headlines in 2004.
Overall, the year began with a bang -- with a pretty decent snow and ice storm that dropped 4-8 inches of rain before it changed to freezing rain and ice. In spring, we waded our way though 9 tornadoes -- the second most ever in Washington for one year. The state avearges just one per year.
Aside from tornadoes, we didn't have too many wind-related problems -- just some minor-to-moderate windstorms in spring and one in December. Lightning from strong thunderstorms caused a little damage in the summer, and of course, we had the usual flooding problems in November.
Overall for the year, we're going to end up below normal for rainfall, finishing just over 31" in Seattle, about 6.5 inches below normal. Assuming it rains Friday, Seattle will have had it rain on 148 days this year, which is just about normal (154).
January and the second half of August and September were cool and wet (about 1-2.5 degrees below normal), but the rest of the year was generally warm and dry (about 1-2 degrees above normal.).
Seattle set 7 new record highs and tied an eighth. We set one new record low. The highest temperature recorded for the year was 96 degrees on July 23. The lowest temperature occurred both on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5 when it got down to 20 degrees.
As for cloud cover, Mother Nature was pretty indecisive this past year. Seattle received 46 sunny days last year -- less than the usual 58. But then again, we only got 196 cloudy days -- well below the average 226. Instead, we were way over quota on partly cloudy days (124 observed as opposed to the usual 81 in any given year.)
(See this link to see what constitutes a "sunny day".)
But if you want to take a jaunt down memory lane, here's the individual weather events that shaped up 2004:
Jan. 3-6 Snow Storm
The year began on a very chilly note as our first, and strongest winter storm of the year blew through the area. Most areas received 4-8 inches of snow, closing schools and businesses and giving a bonus snow day to just about everyone.
After the snow fell, temperatures dropped into the 20s in Seattle, and teens in the outlying areas. Shelton even dropped into single digits (8) and wind chills in Whatcom County ranged from -5 to -10 degrees. Wind gusts to 61 mph caused scattered power outages in the San Juan and Island Counties.
But when the warm air started to come back, it mixed with the cool air still stuck near the ground to cause an ice storm along the Cascade foothills, coating some areas with as much as 1/4-1/2 inch of ice. Nearly 150,000 people lost power from falling trees and power lines due to the weight of the ice.
Jan. 30 -- Hang On!
A semi truck driver might owe his life to whoever built the guardrails on the Deception Pass Bridge some 70 years ago. The semi collided with a pickup truck while crossing the bridge Jan. 30 amid strong cross winds measured at over 50 mph.
In the accident, the semi overturned about halfway over the guardrail and was leaning over the edge of the bridge.
Mar. 18 -- A Little Breezy
Winds up to 45 mph knocked out power to about 10,000 people from Everett to Olympia. Severl trees were knocked down, including one that blocked SR-16 for about an hour.
April 27 -- The Roof Was Here A Minute Ago...
One of our state's nine tornadoes of 2004 touched down near Sumas. Not much damage there -- just a barn lost some siding. But that was not the case elsewhere. A very strong convergence zone brought strong winds, heavy rains, and lightning to the central Puget Sound area.
Winds reached gusts over 50 mph in some areas, knocking out power to 200,000 people and ripping the roof off of Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Damage was estimated at $3 million for the event.
May 27 -- Aunty Em, It's A Twister!
A strong (by Washington standards) tornado, rating an F1 on the Fujita Scale, touched down near Tenino and nearly destroyed a large barn. No one was hurt, but it was quite the site to see. Two more funnel clouds were reported near Fall City and Mill Creek, but they didn't reach the ground. Meanwhile, a man was injured after being struck by lightning while working in his roof.
We had three stories on the events from this storm:
June 5 -- Yet Another Twister
An F0 tornado touched down on I-5 just south of Stanwood. But it didn't do much of anything. A Snohomish County Sheriff's deputy captured the twister on video.
A day later, yet another one touched down in Vancouver, Washington. It first touched down in Oregon, then skipped across the Columbia River and jumped back on land in Cowlitz County knocking down a tree before falling apart.
More Twisters Than You Can Shake A Stick At (But Please Don't)
Tornadoes also touched down in East Wenatchee on May 19 (Story) and in Spokane on May 21.
The tornado touched down in a rural area west of Fairchild Air Force Base about 4:15 p.m., said John Livingston, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane.
Weather Service employees who went to the site found only minor damage, he said - "a tree down, some light equipment blown around ... some shingles off a roof."
No injuries were reported.
June 17 -- Mother Nature Puts On A Dazzling Show
An incredibly vivid series of thunderstorms formed over the Cascades the night of the 17th and drifted westward over the Cascade foothills and Central Puget Sound area, putting on a magnificent light show for several hours.
But that' s not all. One viewer, Marc Laidlaw of Redmond, was in his backyard taking pictures of the lightning, when a bolt struck a tree in his backyard the instant he snapped the photo.
The blast fried most of the wiring in his house and it wasn't until the following Monday that he could see the awesome photo he captured.
And you can check this site to see a photo gallery of all the lightning photos we received.
July 23 -- Sweatin' To The 90s
Snap, Crackle, Pop.
No, not the sound of your morning cereal, but more so what your skin probably felt like on the hottest day of the year. Actually, it was the hottest day in six years. Seattle topped out at 96 degrees while Tacoma was at 97 and Bremerton was sizzling at 99 degrees. Further south, Portland and Vancouver hit 103 and Shelton hit 100.
Even the usually-cool coast was baking in the low-mid 90s. Forks and Hoquiam hit 93 each.
Aug. 22 -- Just Another Soggy Sunday
Several periods of heavy rain produced urban flooding as several dozen homes in Seattle's Madison Valley and the Shoreline area suffered damage. Damage was also reported in the Mount Vernon area.
The rains also washed away the "Chalk Walk" art project.
Nov. 2 -- Aloha Oy! The Rain
Our famous "pineapple express" made its first appearance of the year, bringing a heavy dose of rain and some river flooding.
Nov. 7 -- Northern Lights Make Rare Appearance
Puget Sound residents were treated to a rare celestial show as the Northern Lights danced across the sky over King, Snohomish and Skagit counties.
The colorful show began about 8 p.m. and continued through the early hours of the next morning.
Nov 24-25 -- More Flooding
A period of heavy rainfall pushed the Nooksack, Skagit, Bogachiel, Stillaguamish, Tolt, Skykomish, Snoqualmie, Snohomish and Skokomish rivers over their banks. The flooding was minor with the exception of the major flooding along the Nooksack and Tolt rivers.
Nov. 29 -- Whatcom County Wins The Snow Pool
Some arctic air trickled out of the Fraser River Valley, dropping the temperatures juuuuust low enough near the valley's outflow to combine with some rain moving in to bring the season's first snow to western Whatcom County.
Snow was reported in Lynden, Bellingham, and Ferndale -- about 1-2 inches worth
Dec 10-11 -- Wind And Rain, Together Again
Mother Nature unleashes a pretty good 1-2 punch with heavy rains (1-2") and warm temperatures (near 60!) that once again send several rivers over flood stage.
Then, as the floods begin to recede, a strong wind storm comes rolling through the Cascades. Gusts from the storm reached 75 mph and knocked out power to over 10,000.
We'll see what 2005 has in store!