Weather Blog

2009 Weather: Out of the ice box, into the frying pan

2009 Weather: Out of the ice box, into the frying pan
Cooling off in Kent, by YouNews contributor cshaulis

While each of the past few years have left major storms as their calling cards -- 2006 and 2007 had memorable windstorms while 2008 had a weeks-long cold snap that included paralyzing Seattle with several inches of snow, the city's first White Christmas since 1990 and a -6 degree reading in Arlington, 2009 will go down as the year where the sunny days were the most memorable.

The strongest heat wave in history blistered the area in late July into early August, rewriting several high temperature records, including smashing Seattle's all-time record high with a heart-melting reading of 103 degrees, with other spots even topping out at 105!

But 2009 was no wimp when it came to cold snaps either, with several days of frigid temperatures in early December. And as usual, there were plenty of other snowstorms, heat waves, drenching rains, vivid thunderstorms and powerful windstorms this past year that each left their own marks on the region.

Overall, three people were killed and four were injured due to weather events in 2009, with two of the deaths related to the mega-heat wave. Storms also produced $75.1 million in property damages through October (November and December data were not available, so that does not include the several windstorms in November.)

Seattle finished the year at 38.44" of rain -- a little more than the average of 37.07". November was the champ at 8.96" -- ninth wettest on record. Overall average temperatures were just a skosh below normal, believe it or not, with the cool winter and early spring, plus frigid start to December overcoming the record summer heat in late July and early August.

Seattle set six new record highs over the year and tied five others. Meanwhile, two record lows were set and we tied another one.

Here is a list of major weather events from the year and links to our online coverage:

Jan 6-9 -- Record flooding.

After 23 consecutive days of at or below normal temperatures to end 2008 and start 2009, we swung to the other end of the pendulum with a very wet and warm "Pineapple Express" type storm that brought a solid 48 hours of nearly non-stop rain for western Washington.

As much as 8-20 inches of rain fell in the mountains with lowland totals ranging from 1-9 inches. Flooding was widespread with record levels reached on the Snoqualmie, Tolt and north fork of the Stillaguamish Rivers. Records were just missed on the Snohomish, Newaukim and Skookumchuck.

In all, 500 homes were destroyed and 2340 were damaged, and 44,000 people were evacuated. Even I-5 went under water again in Lewis County as it had done at the end of 2007 and for the fourth time since 1990. This storm also caused damage to the Howard Hanson Dam and has left the Green River Valley vulnerable to an increased flood risk for years to come.

Not to be forgotten, it was also quite windy, with gusts to 61 mph at Alki Beach, 52 mph at Magnolia and Sand Point, and 51 mph in Issaquah.

Jan. 6 -- Flood warnings now issued for some rivers
Jan. 7 -- Rising floodwaters shut down I-5, prompt thousands to flee
Jan. 8 -- Rain slows, but flood waters continue to rise
Jan. 9 -- Two new flooding records set
Jan. 9 -- Pacific residents fight uphill battle
Jan. 10 --Now comes the long, expensive cleanup
Jan. 13 -- Flood Damage more widespread than in 2007
Jan. 13 -- "It's part of living on the river

Jan. 27 -- A little snow returns to parts of Western Washington

While certainly not to the scale of the snow storms of December, a few spots around Western Washington got another little taste of snow -- about 1-2" in many spots. Meanwhile, it was windy again with gusts reaching 47 mph in Oak Harbor, 41 mph at Alki Beach, 40 mph at Magnolia and 34 mph in Everett.

Feb. 26 -- Winter makes a grand return

After several weeks of calm weather, Mother Nature reminded us this morning that winter was not over.

Drivers in the metro area battled snowy, icy roads, and several schools closed or delayed classes. Where it did snow, most metro area snow totals were running about 1-2" at most, but the far northern areas received several more inches, with Whatcom County and some of the Olympic Peninsula foothills south of Sequim and Port Angeles reporting between 7-11 inches. Some spots of the Cascade foothills also had higher amounts.

Mar. 7-8 -- Mother Nature doesn't take the weekend off

Happy Daylight Saving Time Day -- the first sign that days are getting longer and spring and summer are just around the corner. How did we celebrate? More snow.

Snow fell in spots mainly from the pesky Convergence Zone, although a few other showers donated an inch or two to some other random cities.

The Convergence Zone brought 3" of snow to Marysville overnight, and about 1.2" to South Everett, 1" to Snohomish and about a 1/2" to Mountlake Terrace. Outside the zone, Grand Mound picked up 3", while Federal Way had about 1.5" on grassy surfaces, and Port Townsend received 3" in a heavy shower that rolled through.

Mar. 9 -- March Madness moves into Monday

Spring wasn't too far away, but winter's not giving up its throne without a fight! For the third day in a row, snow fell in spots around the Puget Sound area. The big snow lottery winner was the greater Everett area, which had between 4-8" of snow as a strong Convergence Zone set up shop. The Bellingham area also saw heavy snow in the morning.

The State Patrol says there were at least 75 accidents by mid afternoon from Everett north to the Canadian border, with 41 in Snohomish County alone.

The zone then moved south through King County, bringing a little snow to Seattle and a good 1-3" across the higher hills of the Eastside, but leaving the main I-5 and I-405 freeways fairly intact.

Mar. 20: One dead as storm rolls across region

A weather squall that rolled through the Puget Sound region claimed the life of a Seattle woman when a tree crashed into her van. The 46-year-old woman was driving near Monroe around 3:45 p.m. when a tree fell across the road near 260th Ave. SE and Ben Howard Road, striking her van.

Some of the wind speeds were quite high. Gig Harbor and Tacoma both had sudden gusts to 47 mph, while Everett hit 41mph, Port Angeles hit 40 and Seattle hit 38.

Mar. 31 That's one ornery lamb!

So much for March going out like a lamb. Strong winds knocked a tree into a home in Bothell. There were people inside, but all made it out safely. Snohomish PUD said about 20,000 people had lost power at some point in the storm -- the hardest hit areas are Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Monroe and Sultan, with also scattered outages in Woodinville, Mukilteo and Marysville.

Point Wilson, on the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, recorded a wind gust of 61 mph, while Point No Point Lighthouse near Hansville had a gust to 55 mph, and a buoy on the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca had a gust to 49 mph.

Unofficially, we had a reported wind gust of 56 mph near Port Townsend, and a gust to 62 mph on a home weather station in South Everett.

April 20 -- Upon further review, Seattle does break record high

In a preview of what was to come later in July, Seattle hit a record high temperature of 74 degrees, while spots to the south climbed into the 80s -- Vancouver even hit 83.

May 5 -- Rare May windstorm slams into Northwest

Much like the villain in a bad horror movie, just when you think you've finally vanquished him and the happy music plays and the characters move on toward happily ever after land, here he comes roaring back out of the shadows.

A rare late spring windstorm brought winds gusting as high as 51 mph and a drenching rain. The wind knocked out power to about 2,500 people overnight -- 1,800 to Poulsbo when a tree knocked over a power line, 600 in Bellevue, and 50 on Mercer Island. Most power had been restored as of 6 a.m.

 May 19 -- Thunderstorms light up the Seattle skyline

A very strong Puget Sound Convergence Zone fired up just before 7 p.m. and brought a raging thunderstorm to the greater Seattle Metro area.

Our tower camera caught several lightning strikes over the city, blowing transformers in some neighborhoods and knocking out power to 350 people. The neighborhood of Laurelhurst appeared to be the hardest hit, and Seattle City Light called in extra crews to repair the transformers.

The storms also brought small hail and heavy rain. Boeing Field reported 0.21" of rain in 11 minutes, and 0.32" in one hour.

May 23: -- Nicest Memorial Day ... of all time?!?!

The old joke goes "What's three days of rain in Seattle called? A holiday weekend", but this year's Memorial Day Weekend might have gone down as one of the nicest…ever! Under sunshine all three days, the high temperature for each day was 71, 71, and 69, almost making it the first time highs all three days were in the 70s.

Even the Friday before the weekend was a very pleasant 70 degrees. It might arguably have been the nicest four day stretch of weather in Seattle's history no matter the season!

June 3-4 -- The year's first heat wave

"The one saving grace of Northwest heat waves: they don't last too long" I penned in the opening line to our Web story advertising the year's first heat wave in early June.

Oops. I guess Mother Nature took that as a challenge, or a jinx. As we saw in late July, they certainly can last long if conditions are just right. But this heat wave was more typical, as it only lasted a few days and highs topped out around 90 across the region. (Or as we'd come to know it by July 29th: "Breakfast weather.")

June 3 -- Seattle Bakes in Record Heat
June 4 -- Heat wave: Here today, gone tomorrow

June 4 -- Heat Wave, Be Gone!

And boy, when that heat wave broke, it didn't go down without a fight. Thunderstorms raged across Portland's Willamette Valley in the afternoon, while a surge of marine air barreled into the Puget Sound region, bringing winds as strong as 45-50 mph and knocking out power to at least 50,000 region-wide.

Debate rages to this day whether the strong winds were the result of a big push of marine air, or a gust front coming out of the severe thunderstorms in Oregon.

It also made for some incredible temperature drops in a short time -- as much as 30 degrees in some spots in just a few hours.

See time lapse video here

June 16 -- Such drama -- will it ever rain again in Seattle?

It was the talk of the town: "Did you hear it hasn't rained since 2004 in Seattle?" "The last time it rained, I think Pink Floyd was still together".... I heard Seattle is now drier than Phoenix!"

Seattle went 29 consecutive days without measurable rainfall -- tied for longest spring-time dry streak ever. In that time frame, New York City has had nearly 6" of rain, while even Los Angeles and Phoenix have had a light dose of rain.

But what was amazing was that we were just 6 minutes from breaking the record -- rain moved in just before midnight.

July 4 -- Fireworks aren't the only thing sizzling in NW

Plenty of sunshine as people were out celebrating Independence Day. The high temperature on the Fourth this year was 87 degrees, tied for fourth warmest on record. (91 in 1972 is the record, and we've had an 89 in 1975, an 88 in 1997 and another 87 in 1958.)

July 24- August 3: THE HEAT WAVE

In one of the, if not the hottest stretch of weather Seattle has seen in nearly 30 years, the region baked under several days of 85+ degree weather, with a five day stretch of 89, 94, 97, 103, and 96 degree weather, then zooming right back to 90 a few days later. In fact, when averaged over 7 days, the streak was the hottest week on record, and July's average temperature of 69.5 degrees was the warmest ever recorded at Sea-Tac Airport.

Lost in the heat hoopla was another all-time record set -- the warmest night ever experienced in Seattle. The low temperature the morning of July 29th was 71 degrees, making July 29th not only the first day ever to be over 100, but the first day ever not to drop below 70 degrees at some point.

The heat knocked out power to 14,000 people and sent the region scrambling to find air conditioners. Lines stretched several people deep at any hardware store promising to get a shipment in that day.

The incredible demand allowed one entrepreneurial Everett man to make quite a bit of money driving to far flung places like Eastern Washington and Boise, Idaho to buy air conditioners there and then selling them in Seattle for double their retail price.

July 24 -- It's about to get hot -- really hot
July 27 -- Mother Nature serves up one doozy of a heat wave
July 28 -- Our hottest forecast ever: Seattle to hit 101
July 29 -- Seattle hits 103 -- Welcome to the hottest day ever!
July 30 -- "Cooler" today -- Highs in the 90s.
July 30 -- Another record toast, but cooler weather coming

Aug. 10 -- This summer, it's news: It's going to rain

Once the rain ended on May 19th, it got dry in a hurry, and stayed that way. Over the next few months, Seattle would just receive 0.24" of rain -- mainly in drips and drabs. In the middle, another long dry streak, this one hitting 27 days. But finally, on Aug. 10 the rain returned -- and it rained for four straight days.

Sept. 6 -- Aunty 'Em -- It's (officially) a tornado!

We only average one or two a year, and this year's was on Sept. 6 when a rare tornado touched down near Buckley and tracked northeast for almost 10 miles and 16 minutes to outside of Enumclaw.

The tornado had peak winds up 100 to 110 mph and was rated as an EF1 tornado. There were no fatalities or injuries with the tornado but it did about $180,000 in damages. Some of that damage was at the Kaelins' home in Buckley, where huge trees were toppled and a fifth-wheeler was on its side after being carried a good 70 feet by the wind.

A two-and-a-half-story hay barn was reduced to rubble.

13-year-old Brayden Milliner captured home video of the tornado as it formed.

Oct 13 -- Windstorm kills one, injures two

Strong winds that roared through parts of Western Washington with gusts as high as 55 mph claimed a life and injured two others.

Kwansok Kim, 70, was killed and his 62-year-old wife Pok was seriously injured when a gust of wind toppled a tree into their car near Randle Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, officials with Eastside Fire and Rescue say a 15-year-old girl suffered a broken leg when a large tree limb fell across her legs at Camp Waskowitz near North Bend.

Winds gusted between 40-45 mph for most of Tuesday across the Cascade foothills and southeaster King/Northeaster Pierce County. But one National Weather Service spotter in North Bend reported a gust of 55 mph with several tree limbs snapped and some trees ranging in 18-22 inches in diameter down across area roads. Some of those trees also knocked down power lines.

November: Home of the windstorm

November typically rates as the stormiest month of the year and this was no different.

Several storms rolled through Western Washington over the first two weeks -- we lost count, but I think there were seven, maybe eight or nine. Four of them brought gusty winds that we'd say qualified as a wind storm, and a fifth wind storm spared most of the Puget Sound area, but raked the Oregon Coast instead with gusts over 80 mph.

The other four storms spent their time picking on the Northern Interior and coast, where wind gusts to 60-80 mph were observed at times along the coast and gusts to 50-65 mph around Bellingham.

In fact, while Bellingham was, at last check, still in the United States, it must feel a bit closer to Canada now after several days of southerly winds over 40-50 mph. In one 74 hour stretch, they had 23 hours of winds over 40 mph and 11 hours with gusts over 50 mph.

Nov. 5 -- Mother Nature: Hey, don't forget it's November

The storm on November 6th even brought along a funnel cloud for the ride.

Nov. 6 -- Funnel cloud caps off stormy 24 hours

On Friday the 13th, things got interesting as we added in a little snow to the equation.

Nov. 13 -- Friday the 13th's Weather Gets A Little Flakey

Nov. 16 -- First of two potent storms strikes Northwest
70 mph coastal winds mark arrival of second storm

Nov. 17 -- No rest for the dreary

Nov. 18 -- Wind-blown Northwesterners: Third time is not the charm

Nov. 19 -- Region smacked again; stormy streak continues today

Nov. 21 -- Week ends just like it began -- stormy

December -- Chilly Again

As we turned the calendar to December, we said goodbye to the wind storms, and hello to yet another extended arctically chilly pattern. But unlike 2008's persistent snows, this pattern was equally as cold (actually, a bit colder), but dry as a bone.

Several cities spent a few nights in single digits, with the rest of the area solidly down into the teens. Olympia had three consecutive nights with a low temperature of 6 degrees, and a fourth night at 10 degrees.

The icy weather ade for some spectacular photos of frozen fountains across the region.

Dec. 9 -- Records fall as temperatures plunge to single digits

Cold Weather Scoreboard

The cold weather began to break before the next batch of moisture could arrive in time and provide for a region-wide snow, but a few spots did get a little snow to coat the ground.

Dec. 12 -- Snow falls across parts of Western Washington

Dec. 13 -- Snow sticks around for some, but warmer weather is here

We finished off the year on a rather calm note, with several dry days leading us through Christmas. Stormy weather didn't return until New Year's Eve, soaking revelers eagerly awaiting midnight to ring in 2010.

2009 Year End Statistics For Seattle

  • Annual Rain: 38.44". (Average: 37.07")
  • Number of days with measurable rain: 146 (average: 154).
  • Number of sunny days (0-30% cloud cover): 51 (average: 58)
  • Number of partly cloudy days (30-70% cover): 164 (average: 81)
  • Number of overcast days (>70% cloud cover): 150 (average: 226)
  • Number of days 80 degrees or hotter: 36 (Average: 25)
  • Number of days at 85 or hotter: 21 (Average: 10)
  • Number of days at 90 or hotter: 7 (average: 2)
  • Number of days at 95 or hotter: 3 (Average: one every other year)

Chart of monthly temperatures and rain:

Seattle Monthly Rain +/- Normal Avg. Temp +/- Normal
January 5.40 +0.27 39.0 -1.9
February 1.51 -2.67 41.6 -1.7
March 4.16 +0.41 41.7 -4.5
April 3.36 +0.77 49.2 -1.0
May 3.61 +1.83 56.2 +0.4
June 0.18 -1.31 63.8 +3.1
July 0.06 -0.73 69.5 +4.2
August 1.16 +0.14 65.6 0
September 1.75 +0.12 62.4 +1.3
October 5.54 +2.35 52.2 -0.5
November 8.96 +3.06 46.6 +1.4
December 2.75 -2.87 37.9 -2.8
Avg 38.44" +1.37 52.14 -0.2

Have a great 2010!