In Seattle, it rains all the time. Move here, and thanks to the constant grey and drizzly weather, you will become morose, withdrawn, overweight, undersexed and suicidal.
At least that's what we'd like you to believe - so as to stem the flow of new arrivals in Puget Sound and keep this increasingly imperfect piece of paradise to ourselves. The MSM often echoes the "Soaked Seattle" meme quite reliably.
But the facts are somewhat different.
Seattle has less annual rainfall than many U.S. cities, as this chart shows (scroll down to the third section). Many places in the southern and Mid-Atlantic regions get more rain, plus some in the Northeast. Even Tulsa is wetter than Seattle.
The chart also shows that Seattle has more days with rain than any other U.S. city but one. Once again going against the exclusionary interests of fellow Puget Sounders, I must point out: So What! While some rainy Seattle days stay that way, many do not. Smart locals capitalize on "sunbreaks," hitting parks and beaches for brisk strolls, while newbies from Philadelphia and L.A. cower at the window wondering if they dare head outside.
Moreover, Seattle winters, while somewhat moist, are rarely cold, and have a healthy share of 40-degree-plus days, some drenched with sun and clear skies. Right now, it's frigid (20s and 30s) with completely clear and sunny skies, and gorgeous snow-capped mountains visible 70 miles away. Today's Seattle Times features a story about the cold snap, and the likelihood of snow, which is about as frequent here as antlers on a crested grebe.
I suppose if Seattle does have one heinous weather-related flaw, it's the way some locals react to snow on those rare occasions when it falls around the city and suburbs. Always a huge event, prompting breathless reportage, and the closing of schools and workplaces. This is because there are a lot of hills, making driving somewhat treacherous. And snow, like noisy people from "Back East," disturbs the drowsy equilibrium of this distant backwater, where grey is a civic and societal behavioral model, as well as the color of the sky.
Seattle snow hysteria always cracks me up. I grew up in Chicago, and still fondly recall building real igloos with my little pals in the alley between Cornell Ave. and Hyde Park Blvd. during the famous blizzard of '67. Another cherished memory was Chicago's crippling snowstorm in '79, when all public transit was stymied, and I turned my taxicab into a jitney of sorts, making the 151 Sheridan Road to downtown bus run over and over with five or six passengers at a time. (I even had a makeshift "151/Sheridan" sign in my side window). Boy, was I raking it in!
The plus side of Seattle's frequent drizzle:
a) plants and flowers of all kinds grow, and grow, and grow;
e) rain boosts coffeehouse culture, and Wi-Fi therein;
f) you get to smirk at gringo touristas who strut around Seattle wearing $800 Burberry raincoats and carrying umbrellas, unaware that the native attire is fleece outerwear and - when the drizzle stiffens - The Seattle Weakly carried over one's head.
However, if you are considering moving here from drier climes I must warn you to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Despite being Jewish, I am a hopeless optimist. None of these ameliorative circumstances I have just described are likely to cheer you. In all likelihood, you will be utterly miserable.
Don't chance it.
Posted by Matt Rosenberg at January 4, 2005 10:05 AM
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