2012 Weather in Seattle: Storms, streaks, and sunshine

Lightning strikes near Hansville, WA on July 12, 2012. (Photo:

SEATTLE -- Whether you're a sun fan, or a rain fan -- or even snow, ice and/or lightning -- Mother Nature had something for everyone this past year around Seattle.

The year started off with the greatest ice storm the region had seen in generations, muddled through another cool and wet spring, then sprang perhaps the longest stretch of pleasant weather (in generations?) in the late summer, only to finish the year as rainy as it's ever been, as if to make up for lost time.

The greatest storm of the year turned out to be the first one -- a massive snow storm that turned into an ice storm. It began on Jan. 17, bringing crippling snow amounts to southwestern Washington, several inches of snow to parts of the Puget Sound area, wind chills below zero in Whatcom County along with hurricane force winds to the Oregon Coast.

Southwestern Washington took the brunt of the snow storm, with well over a foot of snow reported across Mason, Lewis and Thurston Counties.

A spotter in Chehalis reported 21 inches on the ground that day. Olympia's Airport had reported 13 inches of snow on the ground, threatening their all-time 24-hour snow fall total record of 14.2 inches.

Moderate to heavy snow also reached north into the Puget Sound region, with snow totals between 2 and 8 inches common in the Seattle-Tacoma area and about 1-3 inches to the north in Snohomish County.

Jan. 17 -- Snow showers dot region Tuesday with more for Wednesday
Jan. 17 -- Seattle won't escape next round of region-wide snow
Jan. 17 -- Snow totals from Tuesday's Snow
Jan. 18 -- Storm slams parts of region with over foot of snow
Jan. 18 -- Region digs out from largest snow storm in years
Jan. 18 -- Snow storm live blog

As you might imagine, snow in Seattle makes it tough to get around, but one man decided to dodge traffic by riding to work on a unicycle!

Ice, Ice Baby

But it's at the tail end of the snow that caused the most havoc -- ice, and plenty of it. A persistent freezing rain fell across much of the Puget Sound and surrounding areas, coating the area with as much as 1/2-1" of ice. The weight toppled trees and power lines -- knocking out power to over 300,000. Sea-Tac Airport was closed for parts of two days. Freeways were closed intermittently by jackknifed semis and untold numbers of spinouts and accidents.

Jan. 18 -- With snow over, freezing rain poses next challenge
Jan. 18 -- Snow totals from Tues night into Wednesday
Jan. 19 -- Potent ice storm brings Western Wash. to its knees
Jan. 19 -- 300,000 without power, flooding expected on Friday

You'd think we'd deserve a break after that, but no. Instead, three more moderately-potent wind storms came in succession that undid some of the power workers' efforts in restoring electricity. Wind gusts were frequently around 45-50 mph - strongest north and coast, but still enough to keep everyone busy.

Jan. 20 -- Warmer weather on the way as crews scramble to restore power
Jan. 21 -- Gusty winds knock out power to more neighborhoods
Jan. 21 -- Cleanup begins as W. Wash. recovers from storms
Jan. 21 -- As power crews make progress, another windstorm threatens
Jan. 22 -- 80,000 still without power as new storm moves in
Jan. 25 -- Heavy winds put thousands back in the dark

And yet, a Los Angeles Times writer had the gall to call Seattleites storm wimps -- as they themselves freaked out over 1/3 of an inch of rain:

Jan. 19 -- L.A. paper calls Seattle "snow wimps" as SoCal warns about 1/3" of rain

We'd love some calmer weather

The Northwest did get about a month's break from super-stormy weather that lasted through Valentine's Day. (Of course, that wasn't the only thing that lasted through Valentine's Day. Check out this pile of stubborn snow!)

A heavy rain struck the Cascade Mountains on Feb. 20 bringing moderate flooding to the Snoqualmie River, but amazingly, Seattle hardly had any rain, thanks to the Olympic Rain Shadow.

Feb. 20 -- Flood Warnings posted as heavy rain drenches Cascades

Snow returned as the month began to end, timed perfectly to destroy a blog post I had written in 2011 declaring Feb. 25 as the most boring day of winter.

It no longer has the distinction. Wind gusts reached 45-55 mph and snow fell across much of the North Sound, with 4-5 inches on Redmond's Novelty Hill:

Feb. 25 -- 'Most boring day of winter' fraught with rain, wind and snow
Feb. 26 -- Rain, snow and... falling ''dipping dots''?
Feb. 28 -- A lot of snow for a few, not a lot of snow for many

Another North Sound snow -- courtesy of the Convergence Zone -- brought a brief coating to southern Snohomish County on Mar. 5:

Mar. 5 -- Convergence zone brings sloppy commute to North Sound

March 12th will go down as quite the wacky weather day for the coast, where winds of 40-60 mph hit the area during the morning, only to be followed by snow a few hours later - as much as 3 inches in spots!

Mar. 12 -- Coast goes from fierce winds to fluffy snow

In like a lion, 2-by-2

For Seattle, March will go down as super soggy. A steady dose of rainstorms through the middle of the month pummeled the city with 10 consecutive days with at least 0.10" of rain, and eight of those days at least 0.33" -- good for second-longest such streak in Seattle. Still wasn't wet enough though for Seattleites to carry an umbrella.

Mar. 15 -- Seattle goes from soggy to 'super soggy'
Mar. 15 -- Proof Seattleites don't need umbrellas in the rain, just coffee

Then of course, winter had to get in its last parting shot:

Mar. 19 Snow, ice to end winter; windstorm to kick off spring

Overall, Seattle's 7.20" of rain for March would be 3rd wettest at Sea-Tac.

Stop the Presses! It's dry on a weekend -- again!

April was the Seattle weather equivalent of a vacation with the only weather entry about how for the first time in seven months, we had two back-to-back dry weekends:

Apr. 13 -- For the first time in 7 months, it's back-to-back dry weekends

But the show was over by early May, as Seattle got nearly an inch of rain alone on May 4 -- good for a record -- as other spots crossed the one-inch mark:

May 4 -- Soaker of a Thursday breaks several rainfall records

But most of the questions going into the spring centered around: "Please tell us it won't as gloomy as last spring!" when we didn't reach 75 degrees until late June and didn't cross the 80 degree mark until early July.

Well, with La Nina around for a second year, it wasn't quite as cold and wet, but pretty close. Still, there were some bright spots not seen in 2011 -- even hitting 80 degrees in May!:

May 11-- Smile, sun fans! Warmth proves it's not your 2011 spring... or 2010... or 2008
May 14 -- Break out the shorts (and trumpets?) Seattle set for 80 degrees (It did hit 80)
June 8 -- 'Juneuary' strikes again?
June 18 -- One sunny day in June (that's all, folks!)
June 20 -- Summer weather finally arrives in Seattle right on time

Actually, more memorable than the gray, overcast clouds during the spring and early summer -- were the persistent thunderstorms. Sure, a thunderstorm or two is common around here, but we had several nights of storms, especially in July:

May 17 -- Surprise Convergence Zone brings stormy night to a few
May 25 -- Fridays' thunderstorms show off some amazing clouds
July 9 -- Thunderstorms light up the skies over Puget Sound
July 9 -- Slow motion video shows intricate dance of lightning strikes
July 12 -- Seattle awakens to a Needle in a fog bank
July 13 -- Thunderstorms fire up around Western Washington
July 20 -- Thunderstorms light up the skies over parts of Puget Sound... again

And then there was this storm. OK, it had absolutely nothing to do with Seattle -- it was Knoxville, Tenn. But just have to share as one of my favorite weather blogs. TARPNAMI!!!

The nicest stretch of weather in Seattle history?!?

While July got off to the stormy start, its end ushered in what many might consider the most pleasant stretch of weather Seattle had ever seen -- or at least experienced in recent history.

Starting on July 22, Seattle would go on an incredible run of 82 days with hardly any rain, and 48 days in a row of zero rain -- second-longest on record!

August ended up being the driest on record in Seattle with just a Trace measured (actually, a combined 15 total minutes of rain for the month), while September only had 0.03" which, you guessed it, was a record for driest August-September on record.

But embedded in the dry streak were a few hot days, especially on Seafair weekend. Seattle hit 93 degrees on Aug. 4 and 5 making it the second-hottest hydro race on Lake Washington in Seafair history.

Aug. 4 -- Weekend heat advisory continues for Puget Sound region

As we reached the middle of the month, it was a week of highs over 80 degrees, peaking at 94 and 91 on Aug. 16 and 17.

Aug. 16 -- Seattle sizzles in the 90s once again
Aug. 16 -- Fire Weather Watch issued here as Seattle bakes in the 90s
Aug. 17 -- Red Flag Warning issued for all of Western Washington

But once we cooled to 71 degrees the next day it was -- perhaps the nicest stretch of weather Seattle had ever seen as the city rattled off a record 19 consecutive days with highs in the 70s. Wow!

Seattle summer: Just over 4,000 minutes long

While rain was still MIA for September overall, there was just enough on Sept. 10 to end our near-record rain streak at 48 days -- agonizingly close to the record of 51. In fact, it was just sprinkles in September that registered three days of the bare minimum 0.01". It would be 82 days between days that had at least 0.02" of rain -- well beyond any records -- and, of course, setting a record for driest 80-day stretch in Seattle history.

Sept. 10 -- 14 minutes of rain ends Seattle's near-record dry streak

While we didn't break the big record for dry streaks, we did reach 90 on Sept. 7 for the first September 90 in 22 years.

Sept. 7 -- First time in 22 years Seattle hits 90 in September.
Sept. 18 -- Seattle needs a new weather warning: 'Pleasant Weather Advisory'

When all was said and done, the summer ended up a bit warmer than 2011's version that had panned reviews from many sun fans. Last year I was counting the minutes we had over 80 degrees and it reached 3,323. With the warm August and early September, 2012's tally reached 4,388 minutes.

Sept. 24 -- Seattle's 2012 summer: About 1,000 minutes longer than 2011

When it rains, it pours

82 days of dry weather came to a very abrupt end when Mother Nature must have literally flipped a lever from "dry" to "wet" on Oct. 12. Once the rains began, they didn't stop.

Even with the first 11 days of the month bone dry, October would end up tied for the 5th wettest at Sea-Tac. The rain was also enough to completely wipe out the rain deficit we had accumulated in the summer.

Oct. 12 -- And on the 82nd day, rain fell from the sky in Seattle
Oct. 15 -- Another stormy night on tap for Puget Sound region

But it wasn't just October rains. We even tossed in another thunderstorm and, more spectacular, a waterspout that touched down near the Everett marina.

Oct. 16 -- Lightning brightens the stormy skies over Hansville
Oct. 20 -- Rare waterspout touches down near Everett
Oct. 31 -- October comes in like a desert, out like a rain forest

Not just rainy, but gloomy too

November picked up where October left off -- gray and rainy. But perhaps the stormiest day was Nov. 19 which is already the statistical rainiest day of the year, but this year outdid itself with a record amount of rain.

Over 2 inches of rain fell in the Seattle Metro area with greater amounts out toward the coast and in the hills. Several streets were flooded and there were dozens of accidents, crippling the morning commute. Over on the northern Oregon and southern Washington coast, winds blasted to hurricane-force strength, even reaching triple digits on some of the exposed hilltops. Astoria reached a gust of 92 mph.

In Pacific County, a trooper and another driver miraculously escaped injury when a tree fell on the trooper's car.

Nov. 19 -- Record-setting rains, gusty winds make travel a headache

The heavy rains and thick clouds also kept the sunlight out and made it feel like sunset came a few hours early. It turned out it was the second-gloomiest day in three years.

Nov. 19 -- Seattle has second-most gloomiest day in 3 years

12 Days of Christmas; 27 days of rain

Just when you think the rain couldn't get more persistent, December upped the ante by producing rain just about every day of the month.

And of course, the rain down in the lowlands meant snow in the mountains -- and quite a bit of it. Once we reached the middle of the month, it seemed like feet of snow were expected in the Cascades every day -- so much so that Mt. Baker could lay claim to having the most snow in North America.

The snow led to tragedy up at Stevens Pass, where nearly 5 feet of snow that fell in less than a week lead to several tree falls along the highway. On Dec. 21, a tree fell on top of a car, killing a Bothell couple and injuring four others. The next day, another tree crashed onto a car, injuring all five inside.

WSDOT officials said it worst conditions they had seen in 30 years.

Down in the lowlands, it was wind at first, then a few marginal snow events that dotted the area with some snow while leaving the main Seattle Metro area mostly unscathed.

The windstorm hit on Dec. 17 with general gusts of 45-60 mph, with a peak gust of 59 mph in Seattle. The storm also coincided with high king tides around the Puget Sound area to bring some tidal flooding and a record tide registered in Seattle.

Dec. 17 -- Powerful storm brings damaging winds to parts of region

The following two days would have spots of snow. Scattered reports of snow were mainly about an inch or less, but Spanaway reported 2-3 inches in some spots while a viewer in Graham reported 4 inches.

Dec. 18 -- First lowland snow dots parts of Western Washington
Dec. 19 -- Snow makes encore appearance across parts of region

Rain would keep going right on through the holidays, with a select few in the lowlands even getting a bit of a rare White Christmas in the Hood Canal area.

Dec. 24 -- Mother Nature's gift: A little snow to some, strong wind to others

As the year neared the end, Mother Nature finished it in perfect balance -- after going nearly 2 1/2 months with no rain to speak of in summer, it was 2 1/2 months with hardly a dry day in the autumn. In fact, it would end up the 6th wettest autumn on record and December set its all-time record with 27 days of measurable rain in the month.

Dec. 26 -- Seattle: 75 days of sun, followed by 75 days of rain.

And on the final day, as if to put an exclamation point on the year, Mt. Rainer and the sun combined to put on quite the show to finish off 2012:

Seattle: Home to 4 feet of rain

Thanks to the wet spring and autumn, it was more than enough to counter our super-dry summer to where Seattle ended up with its 6th wettest year on record at 48.26 inches of rain -- over 10 inches above normal (37.49"). And while much of the nation was shattering overall temperature records, Seattle's year ended up reasonably normal.

The city set three high temperature records -- 70 degrees on April 8, 93 degrees on Aug. 5, and 59 degrees on Nov. 30. We also tied the record high of 75 on Oct. 7. We did not set a single low temperature record.

Rainfall was another story, as nine new daily rainfall records were set, the greatest being 2.13" on Nov. 19.

2012 Year End Statistics For Seattle

  • Annual Rain: 48.26" ** 6th wettest! (average: 37.49")
  • Number of days with measurable rain: 177 (average: 154)
  • Number of sunny days (0-30% cloud cover): 48 (average: 58)
  • Number of partly cloudy days (30-70% cover): 152 (average: 81)
  • Number of overcast days ({>}70% cloud cover): 166 (average: 226)
  • Number of days 80 degrees or hotter: 20 (Average: 25)
  • Number of days at 85 or hotter: 8 (Average: 10)
  • Number of days at 90 or hotter: 5 (Average: 3)

Chart of monthly temperatures and rain:

Have a great 2013!

Keep track of the weather in Seattle through 2013 by following Scott via Twitter @ScottSKOMO and on Facebook at "Scott Sistek KOMO"

Previous Years' Recaps: