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« Local Detail in Novels | Main | Blogging Notes »

October 26, 2009

The Rains Return

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I'm sitting here in Barnes & Noble's version of Starbucks flailing away on my [crosses fingers] trusty macBook.

Outside, it's nasty. Not seriously nasty. Not this early into fall. But not pleasant enough to be outside in either. Heavier than normal rain, a cold front arriving this afternoon, snow in the Cascades passes, highs for the next few days at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Puget Sound area had an exceptionally nice, dry, sunny, sometimes unseasonably hot summer. One perspective is that we're now paying the price for that good fortune. Actually, I welcome the change, though I'd rather have our usual light drizzle than the heavy stuff. And my position can be rationalized by claiming (correctly) that the West Coast, with its seasonal rain pattern, needs plenty of winter snowpack to provide water for the following summer.

The weather brings memories of fall when I was a kid. In particular, I think of being trundled off to Cub Scout meetings: Climbing into those tall, solid post-World War 2 sedans in the dark, wet evenings. Reflections of street lights and light from windows on the wet streets. Fallen maple leaves plastering the ground.

Sigh. That's a major part of Seattle for those of us who grew up here.

It's a cliché, of course. In terms of annual inches of rainfall, Seattle is little different from New York City. Yet that's only a statistic, because Seattle's rain is concentrated in December-February with lesser slop-over for adjoining months; New York's rain is spread more evenly across the year.

What gives Seattle it rainy reputation is the fact that it's cloudy here and for much of the time it seems like it might rain. That's why some migrants from sunnier states have trouble staying here; the climate is too depressing for them.

Other parts of the country and world have their own weather clichés -- not permanent conditions, yet incorporating a strong element of truth.

My image of Phoenix, Arizona is high heat. That of Los Angeles is perpetual sun even though I was there about this time of year a few years ago when it experienced drenching rains and even tornado conditions. My Gulf Coast image is muggy weather and foliage on the edge of decay. Florida means hurricanes, Kansas tornadoes.

Other areas for some reason don't conjure up strong associations with weather or climate. North Carolina? Missouri? Pennsylvania?

I could be mistaken, of course. I'm curious what weather associations readers have.



posted by Donald at October 26, 2009


When I moved south from Edinburgh , I found that Englishmen would refer to the harsh Edinburgh winter. No, I'd say, it's no harsher than most of England's, its problem is that winter is longer. Spring comes late.

Posted by: dearieme on October 26, 2009 4:59 PM

When anyone describes a place as having "all four seasons" I immediately think of the wild harvest colors throughout the lake country in upstate Michigan and New York.

Colorado is snowy peaks and thin air.

The TX and OK panhandles are dusty.

Posted by: dzot on October 26, 2009 9:44 PM

I grew up in Connecticut, and the main weather association I have is of cool temperatures, generally in the 50 - 65 degree range, with clear or partly cloudy skies. While there are quite a few days each year in that category there are many more that are very different. But for some reason the cool, clear days are most memorable.

Posted by: Peter on October 26, 2009 11:43 PM

I grew up in Hawaii. It's short sleeves and shorts year round here. Those who can't stand torrential rainfalls or capricious weather might not like it here. It can turn from gorgeously sunny to pouring rain in minutes here. Also, the "sunny rain" wigs mainland people out, when the wind is blowing just right, you get it where the clouds are not directly above you, but the rain is coming down in buckets while the sun shines overhead.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on October 27, 2009 12:52 AM

The great reality for the southeast is the hot, humid summer. It lasts about five months. For three of those months you want to just stay indoors or hang out at the beach. Those who are able leave for cooler climes. But for the other seven months, the weather is just perfect. If you want to visit the Deep South, come between October and May. It is glorious. It rains pretty much any time of season and there is no such thing as a "typical" year. Also, we don't get as much wind as other parts of the continent, unless there are storms moving through. It is not unusual to swim in unheated outdoor pools right up until November. BTW, I don't include central or south Florida because it really has its own subtropical climate.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on October 27, 2009 10:32 AM

the NC summer inferno is a sauna. the winters get cold into your bones through the humidity. though the springs and autumns are explosively beautiful.

Posted by: libby on October 27, 2009 3:00 PM

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