After 23 consecutive days of measurable rain, Seattle is closing in on a record so dismal even forecasters in this city famous for its gray skies are complaining.
The ground is so saturated that mudslides on Tuesday halted Amtrak service, blocked part of a major highway and chased residents out of a University of Washington fraternity annex in Seattle. No injuries were reported.
With more wet weather predicted over the next several days, Seattle may soon break a record set in 1953. The city saw 33 consecutive days of measurable precipitation then — the most since the National Weather Service office there started tracking rainfall in 1931.
“Usually we have a few days of rain and one or two days of cloudy and dreary days and then it rains again and that’s the way it goes,” said weather service meteorologist Johnny Burg. “We’re not getting our dry days in between — just having one system follow another.”
A trace of rain fell Dec. 18, but the real wet weather started the following day. An additional half-inch of rain fell early Tuesday, Day 23.
Since October, when the weather service’s “weather year” began, Seattle has had 18 inches of rain — about 2 inches above normal and well above this time last year, when the city had received 11 inches of rain.
Slides and snow, too
Mudslides blocked railroad tracks north of Seattle on Tuesday. Another mudslide blocked a northbound lane on Interstate 5 in the Nisqually area, state officials said.
In Seattle, a mudslide made a retaining wall bulge at a fraternity annex north of the university. Firefighters evacuated five residents and cut electricity to the building.
Train tracks were also blocked for most of last weekend as was a highway near Port Orchard on the Kitsap Peninsula. State Route 166 was closed indefinitely in both directions Sunday because of damage from a mudslide.
Forecasters said heavy snow falling amid gusty winds in the Cascades would continue through Tuesday, with about a foot falling every 12 hours.
The Olympic Mountains also were getting slammed, with 6 to 11 inches of snow predicted every 12 hours through Tuesday afternoon.
Seattle natives often joke that it’s easy to spot the tourists and transplants when it’s raining because they’re the ones using umbrellas.
Just ‘a little depressing’
Not Nora Bailey, who moved to Seattle from northeastern France about 10 years ago. Bailey said the rain doesn’t bother her as much as the unyielding grayness.
“It’s been a little depressing, but you know, what are you going to do?” the 32-year-old said as she ate at a Pike Place Market bakery.
Richard Comer, who moved to Seattle from the Fresno, Calif., area four years ago, went without a raincoat Monday. Cleopatra, the pit bull-lab that kept him company, wore a yellow slicker.
“I’m getting pretty used to it, so I don’t really notice it that much anymore," Comer said.
Though Seattle is famous for its rain, the city’s average annual rainfall from 1970 to 2000 was 37.07 inches, compared to 49.71 inches for New York City.