October 12, 2012 in Nation/World

Statewide dry spell coming to an end

Doug Esser Associated Press
 
Slow down

With the Northwest bracing for the first significant rain of the fall, highway officials in Washington and Oregon are pleading for driving caution. Highway officials note that oil and grease on roadways come to the surface with the first rains, potentially making roads slick. They suggest: slow down, keep plenty of distance between vehicles, check wipers, brakes and tires and leave plenty of extra time for your commute.

SEATTLE – Washington residents can say so long to those clear, dry summer days that lingered into fall. Here comes the rain.

A series of Pacific systems will start moving through the state today, bringing the most rain since spring, the National Weather Service said.

The shift to the cool, showery weather pattern for which Seattle is famous is a little overdue.

“It’s a pretty dramatic change in the weather, considering the really unusual spell of dry weather and sunshine,” meteorologist Doug McDonnal said.

The first splash in the state’s face won’t be too heavy, but it’s a start.

“That’s going to open the door to a succession of fronts that will affect the area through the weekend, probably into early next week,” McDonnal said.

Weekend rain will likely be heaviest in the Olympics and North Cascades, with 2 to 4 inches. Amounts in the Seattle area are likely to range from one-half to 2 inches.

Today’s rain is expected to close the record book on one of the driest stretches in state history.

Thursday marked the 81st day with precipitation of no more than three-hundredths of an inch at Sea-Tac Airport. The previous record was 75 dry days in 1922, said meteorologist Johnny Burg.

“And we’re pretty certain something is going to fall out of the sky tomorrow,” he said Thursday.

Seattle had a stretch of 48 days with no precipitation at all that ended on Sept. 9, second to the record 51 rainless days in Seattle set in 1951.

Spokane is one of several Inland Northwest cities with their driest stretch on record from August through early October. Only thirteen-hundredths of an inch has been recorded at Spokane International Airport, breaking the 1991 record of eighteen-hundredths of an inch for that period, the Weather Service office in Spokane said.

Wenatchee has had only a trace of rain, tying the parched 1974 record. Pullman also had a trace, breaking the mark of eighteen-hundredths of an inch set in 1987.

In Eastern Washington, forecasters say the best chance for rain is Sunday and Monday, with cool, showery weather continuing into the middle of next week.

Spokane has a 20 percent chance of rain tonight going to a 40 percent chance on Saturday from the first of two expected storm systems this weekend. The second and wetter storm brings a 60 percent chance of rain on Sunday and a 90 percent chance on Monday. Coeur d’Alene has slightly greater chances of rain during the period.

Temperatures will be mild during the storms from a strong southwest flow carrying subtropical moisture. Highs should run in the 60s with lows in the middle and upper 40s in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas.

The showers will be especially welcome in the parts of Eastern Washington where fires have been burning for more than a month.

It will take time and more rain or snow to finally extinguish five still-smoldering wildfires, said Bryan Flint, communications director for the state Department of Natural Resources.

“If we receive the rains that are predicted it will be very helpful toward bringing our fire season to a close,” he said. The season is typically over by the end of September, but this year has been worse than normal and more costly than normal, he said.

Staff writer Mike Prager contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


There are three comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email