Weather Blog

Putting Duluth's incredible rain storm into Seattle perspective

Putting Duluth's incredible rain storm into Seattle perspective
A car sits in a giant sinkhole in Duluth, Minn. Wednesday, June 20, 2011. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Brian Peterson)

We Northwesterners like to think we are veterans of the rainy day, but Duluth, Minnesota just went through a rain storm that even web-footed Seattleites would have a hard time comprehending.

As a large and moist thunderstorm complex stalled over the region, the rains began just before noon Tuesday and didn't stop -- observations at the airport show nearly 26 hours of consecutive rain with much of those reports reporting heavy rain.

It was truly a storm of a century. When all was said and done, their official station recorded 7.2 inches of rain from Tuesday into Wednesday -- breaking the old record of 6.7 inches set in 1909.

But other stations reported more, with one spotter recording an amazing 10.10" of rain in the area. The storm washed out roads, flooded a local zoo with 14 feet of water and prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency.

Now I was trying to think of a way to put 10 inches of rain into perspective for those of us around here, because 24-30 consecutive (or more) hours of rainfall is actually not all that rare in the heart of the Seattle stormy season. And here is what I came up with:

Think of our truly soggy November storm days that trigger our river flooding. Think about that drenching, driving rain that's there when you wake up and still going when you go to bed; the rain that makes instant lakes because the storm drains are clogged with autumn rains; the rain that turns your 30 minute commute into two hours; the rain that makes it look like it's dusk at noon.

Those days typically tally about 2 inches -- maybe 2.5 inches. Seattle's top all-time rainy days are in the 3-3.5 inch range although we did have that one freak event that dropped 5.02" in October of 2003. But just think of the usual stormy days. Like November 22-23 this past year - Seattle had 1.76" on the 22nd that spilled into another 0.55" on the 23rd. December 27-28 had 0.90" and 0.63" -- barely more than an inch and a half.

Now take that and multiply by 4 or 5 times the intensity of rain, and now you have Duluth. Or, take one of those storms and stretch it out for 4-6 days of non-stop rain, and that's 7-10 inches. Amazing.


The Associated Press contributed to this report