Yes, it’s true. In 1898, a boy actually drowned on a downtown Seattle street. Apparently he was trying to cross an enormous sinkhole on a raft, fell off, and couldn't swim. Despite what you may have heard, however, it doesn't normally rain enough to drown folks in Seattle. The city actually gets less annual rainfall than New York City—it just falls more slowly.
Gray and drizzly skies are standard fare from October to May; when it does rain, it’s frequently a who-needs-an-umbrella sprinkle. One of Seattle’s oddest facts is that more pairs of sunglasses are sold there per capita than any other American city, yet umbrella and raincoat sales are no higher than average. The winter weather pattern remains nearly constant; storms off the Pacific coast send swirling clouds over Seattle for months, leading you to suspect the TV weather forecaster uses the same satellite photo all season.
Nearly all of the precipitation is rain; less than an inch of snow per month is the average, so plows are few… and generally in disrepair. When snowstorms dropped 17 inches on Seattle in November 1985, only four of the city’s seven snowplows worked. Commuters, who have little experience driving in snow, relied on chains to traverse the I-5 snowfield; while some actually reached their destinations, most simply abandoned their cars and turned the freeway into a disorderly parking lot.
Seattle and other western Washington residents have learned to expect these three seasonal events: a windstorm on Thanksgiving that knocks out electrical power while the turkey is in the oven; floods on the Snohomish and Skagit Rivers around Christmas and New Year’s that force farmers to evacuate their homes built on the floodplain; and perfect Santa Barbara weather the weekend of July 4th. You could almost make a living betting on these meteorological events.
When spring arrives the clouds move more quickly; rain comes in unpredictable spurts. Summer convinces many visitors to move here, with low humidity, temperatures in the high 70s to 80s, and cloudless skies; sometimes two entire months pass without a drop of rain. Then, as suddenly as it began, summer ends: Clouds return, temperatures drop to average in the 40s, and residents stockpile firewood, books, hot chocolate, and party invitations for the soggy season ahead.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition