So you think you know rain

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August 20th 2012
Published: August 20th 2012
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Seattle has a reputation, well perhaps several. It may be known as the epicenter of coffee snobbery. It is also known among sports fans as heartbreak central, boasting only one national championship in pro sports history, the 1979 NBA championship by the Supersonics, a team which no longer exists, having been hijacked to Oklahoma City. There was that 1991 NCAA football championship shared between the University of Washington Huskies and the University of Miami. There have been some other good teams, like the Seahawks that made it to the Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Stealers (sic) in 2006, only to have the officials take the game away. And there was the Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson Mariners team that beat the Yankees in the American League Divisional Series in 1995, only to lose to the Cleveland Indians for a shot at the World Series. (This was not the only playoff appearance by the Mariners, but this was the season that led to the building of Safeco Field and the blowing up of the Kingdome.)

But what is Seattle best known for? If you guessed The Space Needle or the Pike Place Market or the headquarters for Microsoft, you are close, but no cigar. (Note - Microsoft is in Redmond, not Seattle.) You know the answer: Seattle is best known for rain. However, with only 37 inches of rain per year Seattle doesn’t even make the list of the top 50 rainiest cities in the U. S. Of course, if you consider the average of 226 cloudy days per year, many with drizzle or mist, one can be forgiven for thinking it’s the rainiest city in the country. It has been said the Eskimos have more than 100 words for snow and Seattleites have a like number of words for rain. This is a language myth as far as the Eskimos are concerned, although I have personally come up with 20 words describing rain.

Because I grew up in Seattle, I thought I knew rain. Ha! I recently moved to Panama, and I want to set the record straight where rain is concerned. When it comes to rain, Seattle is strictly minor league. This year in Boquete, Panama, where I live, we are up to 65 inches of precipitation so far having not yet entered the rainiest months of September – October. Every day between 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. the dark clouds roll south over the mountaintops surrounding us, and the echoes of thunder can be heard. Sometimes we get serious lightning, which is quite a show. Just this week we got hit with a lightning storm lasting over an hour that descended directly upon us from the surrounding ridges. Every utility pole in sight got struck at least once. The lightning was like sitting in the middle of a launch site at a Fourth of July fireworks display, and the thunder was louder than a boom bass car stereo at a West Hollywood stoplight. Add three inches of rain in four hours and you begin to get a feel for what real rain is like. And the amazing thing is the volcanic soil is so porous that the next morning there were no puddles.

Of course, the benefits of rain cannot be overstated, hinting at why Seattle typically rates high on lists of Most Livable Cities. The west slope of the Cascades is home to some of the greenest, most fertile land in the world, which is also true here in Panama. What I love most are the amazing shades of green that surround us. Everything grows here! It’s a rainforest that, at our elevation near 4,000 feet, is like perpetual Spring. Daily temperatures are typically 70 - 80 degrees most days, and the nights cool off to about 60 degrees. The hummingbirds love our garden flowers, and butterflies float by regularly. I even have a banana palm in my garden.

There is more to say about Panama, and I hope to share some of my stories as a visitor in this fascinating foreign land.

Note - It has been said you can always tell a tourist in Seattle - they carry an umbrella. Natives wear Gore-Tex™ parkas. (I have three.)

For the record Mobile, Alabama, tops the list of rainiest cities in the lower 48 states with 66 inches per year average. Ketchikan, Alaska, averages 137 inches per year, and Hilo, Hawaii, gets 126 inches per year. (NOAA statistics)

I haven’t been to Mobile. However, like Ketchikan and Hilo, I’m sure it is beautiful.


21st August 2012

I'm so glad you are writing. This is great! I like how you started out describing Seattle and then compared the rain to the storms in Panama. Puts things in perspective, and those storms sound like quite the show! Does this keep people indoors often, or is it something that occurs so often that it doesn't stop them? I am not very well traveled, so this is all fascinating to me. -Lauren (A&A in Austin)
21st August 2012

Rain in Panama
It rains almost daily in Boquete, although it can be raining here and sunny or partly cloudy in the next valley over or down on the coast. The mornings are usually clear and sunny. Rain is an afternoon thing. We are in a sheltered alpine valley, so we don't get a lot of wind, although nice breezes are common. People don't hang out when it's raining, but if you are caught in the rain, as my wife and I were last week while returning from the store up the road, you just get soaked. But it's not cold so it's no big deal.

Tot: 0.714s; Tpl: 0.078s; cc: 10; qc: 55; dbt: 0.0549s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb