|Traffic in the rain on I-5 from the Skidmore Overpass|
it pours, right? Read on—& welcome to another Rose City Wednesday!
At least in North America, it’s a pretty well known fact that the Pacific Northwest is a rainy area. Both my newly adopted home city of Portland & Seattle have that reputation, & it is well-deserved—yes, it rains a lot in these parts.
But you may be interested to learn that neither Portland nor Seattle rank in the top 10 rainiest cities in the continental U.S.; Mobile, Alabama ranks #1 on the list, & in fact all of the top 10 cities are in the southeast, & most are along the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, if one looks at an extended version of the list, no Pacific Northwest cities appear until Olympia, Washington at #24. Now, if you change the criteria from the amount of rainfall received to the number of rainy days per year, things change a bit; in this case Olympia has the dubious distinction of being #1, & Eugene, Oregon comes in at #5; but otherwise, once again you have all southeastern cities.
|Drizzle & soggy streets on N. Mississippi Ave|
How can this be? Well, a few things to keep in mind. One, much of the rainfall in Portland is in the form of drizzle, as opposed to the out-&-out cloudbursts that happen in the southeast, & even along the eastern seaboard in general in the summer months. That’s not to say that there are no soaking rainstorms, but it is to say that on many “rainy” days the rainfall is more of a nuisance than an absolute deterrent, even to those of us who travel a lot on foot & wait at bus stops.
Another thing to note in terms of the reputation that Portland, Seattle & the Northwest in general hold, is that it does get cloudy here. In fact, in a separate study of the U.S. cities with the most cloud cover, Seattle came in at #4 & Portland at #5, with all the top five cities being located in either Oregon or Washington (Astoria, Oregon, on the coast, is #1.)
|Overcast? Yes, a lot!|
In addition, Portland has the rainy/dry (or at least, considerably less rainy) season phenomenon. From October thru March, there is at least three inches of precipitation each month (October being the lowest on average with 3 inches even), peaking at 5.64 in November. Of the 26 plus inches of precipitation that falls on an average in those six months, only 2.5 inches on an average is snow (with February averaging 1.2 inches per year as the snowiest month), so a lot of rain is coming down in a 6 month period. & in fact, if we go back to the Weatherbill study I quoted earlier, we find that Portland (& Seattle of course) rank in the top five rainiest cities in the U.S. when we look just at that six month stretch (Portland being slightly rainier than Seattle during the first three months, & vice versa during the second three month period.)
|The Spurs of the Moment at Garden Eclectica, Portland: Eberle Umbach, Dani Leone, Chris Leone & Yrs Truly|
Of course, as this photo illustrates, it can rain here most any time—this isn’t California, where the Major League baseball teams frequently go a season or two with no rainouts. That photo was taken in June 2007!
So, as I was told when I moved here: an umbrella is often more of a nuisance than a necessity, but a hat &/or hoodie—yes, you’ll need that for sure!