Soggy Seattle nears rainy-day record

Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 10:27 p.m.
SEATTLE - Tuesday was the 23rd consecutive day of measurable rain as Seattle nears a record notable even in this city famous for its wet, gray weather.
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 rain forecast over the next several days, Seattle could break a record set in 1953. The city saw 33 days in a row of measurable precipitation then - the most since the National Weather Service office started tracking rainfall here 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," weather service meteorologist Johnny Burg said Monday. "We're not getting our dry days in between - just having one system follow another."
A trace of rain fell Dec. 18, which doesn't count as "measurable." The real wet weather started the next day.
An additional half-inch of rain fell early Tuesday, Day 23. That's on top of nearly 18 inches that fell from October, when the weather service's "weather year" began, through Monday. It puts the city more than 2 inches above normal and well above this time last year, when the city had 11 inches.
Mudslides in at least two places halted Amtrak passenger train service early Tuesday between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Portland, Ore., officials said. Buses carried Amtrak passengers around blockages and replaced commuter trains between Seattle and Everett. It was the second disruption in the area in a week.
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.
It was miserable in the mountains, too. Forecasters said heavy, windblown snow 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 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.
Not Nora Bailey, who moved to Seattle from 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, 43, 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.
Still, Ryan Rector, who works at the Pike Place Market seafood counter, wonders if the rain is bumming people out.
"I do notice the people that come in are kind of dragging ... as opposed to when it's sunny in the summer, you know. People are always coming in laughing, smiling."
Though Seattle is famous for its rain, the city's average annual rainfall from 1970 to 2000 was 37.07 inches, compared with 49.71 inches for New York City.
--- Associated Press writer Doug Esser contributed to this report.
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