A Solid Day of Rain

Thursday, August 29, 2013
11:48 p.m.

We got a quarter of an inch earlier this month, but we got nothing in July, and I don’t recall it raining very hard in June either. I was in Micronesia and it was plenty rainy there, but I don’t recall hearing of any torrential rains in Seattle.

And while the rains we saw today were paltry by Micronesia standards, they were Noah-like compared to our past summer. One of my friend’s roommates just said there were “rivers on Montlake,” to which my friend responded “that sounds like more fun than it probably was.” I’ve seen heavier rainstorms in Seattle, but I haven’t seen a dry streak come to such a spectacular end. Of course, we did see some rain in August, so we didn’t have an actual streak of consecutive dry days going, but these rains were likely the first of many to follow. I’m not saying we are in for 40 days and 40 nights of rain, so no need to initiate a no-holds-barred search for a male and female specimen of the world’s most endangered species… this weekend will actually be quite nice. But it does seem like change is in the air. Rains are becoming more frequent, the days are rapidly getting shorter, and my brother just got settled into his freshman dorm at Whitman. That last one has spawned a quarter-life-crisis of sorts… I’m getting old.

We saw some fairly steady rains throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Our real kicker, though, was this afternoon, when a pretty heavy squall came through Seattle. I check KOMO for much of my weather information (along with the UW, anything affiliated with NOAA, and models that are made by organizations outside the U.S. such as the ECMWF), and at around 4, I saw an alert posted on the homepage that said that extremely heavy rains were currently in Tacoma and were heading northward. I decided to take a look at UW’s composite radar loop, and this is what I saw.

There was a pretty decent-sized cluster of storms over Tacoma at this time, and they were heading NNE at  a pretty quick pace. There were also some showers (possibly thundershowers) that had sprung up to the south in the unstable atmosphere that dominated much of Thursday, but the main action was centered around Tacoma at this time.

However, these showers were moving northward at a pretty decent pace. Thirty minutes later, they were entering Seattle.

I actually went outside and filmed the whole thing from an outlook above my house. I saw some brilliant flashes of lightning and got soaked. I actually thought the rain would be heavier than it actually was, and when I took a look at the radar after the storm had passed, I noticed that the heaviest rain had avoided Seattle.

I turned the “opacity” down in the above image so that you could have a better idea of where the heaviest rain was in relation to the physical geography of the area. The heaviest rain was to the northwest and southeast of downtown, while us city folk enjoyed a nice little valley between the peak radar reflectivities. Monroe saw torrential rains… some personal stations reported close to two inches. Here’s one of them: The Farm at Woods Creek, Monroe.

Cheryl Monroe, a weather geek friend of mine who lives near Monroe, filmed the below video as a squall was passing through her area. The last time I can remember something this intense in the Puget Sound area was 4-5 p.m. of December 14, 2006. Alas, that was in the Seattle metro area and caused massive urban flooding throughout the region, while this was in a suburb with much better drainage. Still, it doesn’t make the intensity of the rainfall any less amazing.

https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=711874068827043

And it’s not just the afternoon rainstorms that were newsworthy. There was a supercell over Omak that didn’t quite form a tornado but came close. Take a look at the photo below.

Photo Credit: Tim Engh – maintenance supervisor of Omak High School.

Yikes! That would be newsworthy if it was over the plains, let alone Washington.

The SPC (Storm Prediction Center) at Norman, Oklahoma pondered putting a tornado watch over our area but decided against it. I think they made the right choice. I would have liked to see a watch though if for no other reason than being able to take a screenshot of the Seattle NWS page with all the Western Washington counties under a tornado watch. That would be soooo cool.

The NWS posted a photo from the Space Needle that really shows the localized nature of this set of storms.

Retrieved from NWS Seattle Facebook page.

This weekend actually looks beautiful. Bumbershoot’s lineup looks fantastic this year, and with perfect weather to boot, the festival should be pretty unforgettable. I’m planning on going… still need to find a way to get a ticket though. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the sunny weather!
Charlie

Ended Saturday, August 31, 2013
12:28 a.m.

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