March 16, 2015

Deluge and Divine Intervention

On Friday, Governor Inslee declared a drought emergency.   He is obviously a favorite of the weather gods...they have answered his plea.   Deluge.

You can tell that divine intervention was involved because the actual weather deviated greatly from the consensus of many of our best forecast models.  This is very unusual at such a short range.   A relief to forecasters, such as myself, who had worried that they had missed something.  

The weather supplications extended to the state legislature, which Governor Inslee called into special prayer session last Friday (see image below, video on TVW).  The rain priestess at the podium was from Bainbridge Island.

How much precipitation fell?  Here is the plot from Seattle RainWatch for the 48-h period ending 9 PM Sunday (there was even more after that!) for the area covered by the Camano Island radar. Two to three inches over the Sound and 4-5 inches over some of the foothills.   Even more near the Olympics.

Heavy rain forced the termination of skiing in Steven have to respect the tenacity of those folks.   They never gave up.  You might want to buy one of their ski passes for next year.

And guess what?  Nearly two feet of of snow was dropped on top of the Olympics, while heavy rains were refilling the streams and moistening the soils (see graph for Hurricane Ridge).   A miracle.

And there is something else.  What day was it yesterday?  The Ides of March.  The Ides were sacred to the god Jupiter, also known as Jupiter Fluvius.  Rain was his specialty.  Governor Inslee knew this.

And his direct condition with powerful gods is reflected in the books he writes:

It is clear that the Governor has a deep connection with higher powers and surely many of you are hoping he will turn his supplications from the skies to a different direction.  A hint is found below:


  1. My gauge (Winslow, Bainbridge Island) recorded a storm total of 2.24" from the most recent event and 3.00" total over the weekend. So the radar estimate was a tad high (it had my location at about 3 inches even at 9PM, when the rain was still falling), but pretty close.

  2. Best column ever Cliff. Only 1.18 in Bellingham, but that was plenty. Even our chickens didn't want go outside.

  3. WA politicians are always a source of entertainment and embarrassment. Good that Mother Nature decided to expose the lunacy of calling for a drought emergency in WA. Yes, there are drier periods, but this is WA. We have a rain forest just to the West for a reason.

  4. Joe Bastardi at Weather Bell predicts a cold, wet spring for the Pacific NW. He hints at (but doesn't actually predict) a repeat of 2011.

  5. Absolutely brilliant writing. Please consider applying for Jon Stewart's soon-to-be-open role on the Daily Show. And let's hope the Bertha Miracle actually happens.

  6. My gauge on south Vashon Island recorded 2.20 inches on Sunday and 1.02 inches Friday night through Saturday morning. Almost a March worth of rain in 48 hours.

    Atmospheric rivers are a narrow feature so our good fortune is not so good for California. From a national agricultural perspective, our rainstorm would have been better further south in central California.

    As I understand global warming theory, this type of weather is the new normal. Longer periods of warm, dry weather and more frequent extreme precipitation events. Such as Boston's late January - early March snowstorms.

  7. How important is timing to meteorology? That is, some comments on "missed the time" but "got the amount right".

    I think for end consumers the timing is same or of greater importance than the magnitude (?). (my airline xyz flight took its usual 2 hrs to fly me home, but since it left 3 hrs late, i'm not impressed)

  8. I live in the foothills of the Olympics and my rain gauge had a whopping 6.25" in it for the weekend. The ground is so wet, that puddles pool up around my feet when I walk in the yard.
    I'd say that was one hell of a deluge.

  9. The Governor's declaration is still important and the best move available to allocate emergency funding and other resources to the 3 areas he highlighted over the coming spring months. The snowpack was temporarily buoyed, especially in the Olympics, but we're going to continue to see warmer air move in from the Pacific, which will erode away the small gains we've made.

    Getting emergency aid to farmers and other rural communities that suffer from drought takes a specific protocol of coordination between local, state, and Federal agencies. The rainfall we see throughout late March and early April will quickly pass through surface waters and into groundwater, but the warm weather is encouraging early blooms of plants. This will ultimately deplete groundwater faster and earlier than what we typically see in the Northwest. "Nature's drip-hose" (snowmelt) is not reliable for this spring and summer...

  10. This has been one of the driest winters in some time, yet my basement has flooded 3 times so far, when it never had more than a tiny leak in the last 5 years. Neighbors and co-workers are also reporting basement leaks like never before. Any thoughts on why this might be happening? Is it due to "spike-y" hydrology this year?


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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