2017 Seattle Weather Recap: Mother Nature's indecisive odyssey
It was the wettest of years. It was the driest of years...
2017 will go down as one of the stranger years on Seattle's weather books, somehow notching records for both the wettest winter on record...and the driest summer on record. We (finally!) got snow in Seattle after a few years' hiatus, just about never saw the sun in spring, only to have seemingly endless sunshine in summer. Seattleites fearing the big solar eclipse would be clouded out despite the mid-August timing were relieved to see one of those sunny days hold on Aug. 21, although it was actually darker in the city during a particularly gloomy day in November.
The spring brought a rare bout of severe weather, not quite rivaling a MidWestern thunderstorm outbreak, but at least getting within shouting distance. The summer was hot once again, notching a record for most days at 85 degrees or warmer (27), and more than doubling our 90+ degree average (eight days; average of three) - the fourth year in a row of a hotter than average summer.
It was also the worst year in decades for smoky skies as fires surrounded Western Washington for much of the late summer, burning across British Columbia, Central Washington and Oregon, meaning smoke was blowing into Seattle as long as the winds were not coming in off the ocean. And in a hot summer, they weren't. Air quality was terrible for multiple days-long stretches across much of the region.
Autumn was fairly typical with our inaugural wind storm in mid-October and our strongest storm on November 13 that sadly claimed the life of one person and injured five others in tree falls.
After a slow start to December, the year closed on a rather happy note for many as the region had its first White Christmas since 2008. The snow melted a few days later, but cold air stubbornly hung around in Whatcom County to bring a damaging ice storm. When all was said and done, it was the 9th wettest year on record, despite essentially having two months whose only precipitation was a brief drizzle for a few hours in the dead of night.
Let's take a trip down memory lane and relive all the weather events!
While snow fans had waited a few winters with not much to show for it, 2017 ended that notion right off the bat. A Convergence Zone popped up right over southern King County, bringing as much as 6 inches of snow to Burien, for example.
The month remained cold -- keeping up with how December 2016 ended, with a number of days that dropped below freezing.
Jan. 4 -- Firefighters rescue 2 teen boys who fell through ice on Lake Serene
Jan. 10 -- Icy roads spawn crashes, school delays around Puget Sound
Jan. 16 -- Rain set to return with a vengeance as January weather flips overnight
It would end up being the first time we had back-to-back cold months in five years!
But the cold air wasn't done, and snow fans FINALLY got their storm on Feb. 5-6 -- especially if you lived outside of Seattle. Spots like Frederickson and Graham had over a foot of snow, while about 4-7 inches fell across much of the rest of the Puget Sound region. Downtown Seattle -- the last place to get snow -- didn't get a whole lot, but still managed about 1-2 inches while the city's hilltops had anywhere from 3-5 inches.
Feb. 3 -- Western Washington wakes up to snow, freezing drizzle, rain showers
Feb. 5 -- Winter Storm Warning issued as significant snow hits Monday
Feb. 6 -- Snowiest storm in 5 years leaves much of Puget Sound region blanketed in white
Feb. 6 -- How much snow has fallen with Monday's winter storm?
The icy Fraser River winds were relentless in Whatcom County and led to incredible winter scenes around Ferndale and Lynden, which had canceled several days of school through the season and left feet-high snow drifts in the howling breezes.
Feb. 7- - 'It feels like a tundra:' Ice, blustery winds leave big chill across Whatcom Co.
Feb. 7 -- Snow Day 2: Thousands remain without power as storm's chill lingers
Feb. 9 -- Buried in snow drifts, how did Lynden become the frozen tundra of the Northwest?
After another little snow in southeastern King County toward the end of the month, it was time to mix things up a bit: Combine snow *and* lightning?!?
Feb. 23 -- Mother Nature gives gentle reminder it's still winter
Feb. 27 -- Forget plain ol' snow showers: Seattle goes straight to thundersnow
Feb. 28 -- Lightning doesn't strike the same place twice? The Space Needle begs to differ
The snow was then done for the season and when all was said and done, we had had more snow than much of the rest of the nation at that point in 2017:
But it wasn't enough to top Portland -- we end up tied!
Sure, the precipitation changed from snow to rain, but they sky color? Still grey. This stat really struck a chord:
Mar. 9 -- Never-ending gloom? Seattle has had just 3 sunny, mild days since the start of October
Mar. 9 -- A dark and stormy night: Wind Advisories posted for much of Western Washington
Mar. 15 -- Seattle gets a year's worth of rain in just 5.5 months... again
We interrupted the rain and gloom stats for a small tornado and a late windstorm:
But then rain picked right back up:
Early May brought perhaps the most unusual weather event of the year: A severe weather outbreak! And not just a "Seattle" severe weather outbreak, but strong thunderstorms (the cloud photos were incredible!) large hail, and even a microburst in Thurston County.
The weather warmed as he neared June -- save for a brief pause to snow at Snoqualmie Pass on May 16. The battle between incoming summer and outgoing spring was waged anew toward the end of the month when w hit our first 80 degree day on May 22 and then a day later, had a windstorm, followed a few days later by another brilliant display of the Northern Lights.
May 16 -- Snoqualmie Pass, dressed in white, doesn't know it's May
May 22 -- 80 degrees in Seattle Monday: A day early, but sun fans will take it
May 23 -- Gusty winds bring down trees, cause power outages in North Sound
Summer itself was marked by the record dry streak and a number of hot days.
The heat took on some drama as we headed toward August. Forecast models at first were calculating Seattle could reach 100 degrees or warmer, but then all the smoke rolled in from massive wildfires in British Columbia and while it made it difficult to see, the smoke kept enough sunlight out to "cool" us off to the low-mid 90s instead (except for one town...)
July 31 - Excessive Heat Warning issued as temperatures to threaten triple digits around Seattle
Aug. 1. -- Excessive Heat Warning begins today; temperatures could reach triple digits around Seattle
Aug. 2 -- Air Quality Alert as wind shift blows B.C. wildfire smoke into Western Washington
Aug. 4 -- Smoky skies leaves air quality worse than Beijing, burn bans that include some BBQs
Aug. 4 -- 98 degrees?!? Wettest, cloudiest town in Lower 48 just trounced Seattle for heat
Aug. 10 -- Surreal sunsets make for spectacular photographs
Meanwhile, we went well beyond a month with no rain and was approaching the all-time record streak of 51 days. We matched the streak on Aug. 6 and then broke it on Aug. 7 with seemingly no rain in sight! But in a wrinkle that would leave Joe DiMaggio would smirking, the streak would end at 55 days with just a paltry shower before midnight in Seattle.
Aug. 7 -- To the surprise of no one, Seattle ties all-time record dry-streak Monday
Aug. 8 -- Miss the rain after a record 52 straight days without? Here's a reminder...
Aug. 13 -- Ding, dong, the dry streak's dead! Rain halts Seattle's record streak at 55 days
Much like DiMaggio's had another 16-game hitting streak start immediately after his famous 56-game streak ended, Seattle would go another 35 days with no rain after the 55-day streak was done! That meant 90 out of 91 days dry! Remember, we had almost 70 percent of days with measurable rain in the previous autumn and winter combined. The 0.02" from June 19 through September 16 was a record dry stretch over a three month period.
How about another record streak? Seattle went 72 consecutive day at or above 70 degrees!
September into early October were mainly about unusual things in our skies that could fill a Weather Bingo card: Ash, funnel clouds, waterspouts, hail, aurora, shelf clouds, and early mountain snow. The San Juan Islands might have taken the cake with their 40+ waterspouts in one morning tally.
Sept. 18 -- First snow of the season falls at some Cascade ski resorts!
Sept. 20 -- Rare double funnel cloud spotted during Tuesday's thunderstorms
Sept. 22 -- 2017 was driest -- and nearly hottest -- summer on record in Seattle
Sept. 29 -- Behold 'Steve' -- Unique aurora phenomenon captured amid local Northern Lights display
The stormy season begins anew in mid October and this year was no different with a 50 mph windstorm on Oct. 18.
Oct. 18 - How wet and windy was it on the Oct. 18 storm?
Oct. 18 - 1 injured as inaugural autumn storm slams region with 50 mph winds
Oct. 18 - Watch: Transformer explodes along Lake Tapps during wind storm
Then, what had to get snow fans really excited -- Seattle had its second-earliest measurable snow on record! Just a dusting, but surely this means a snowy winter? Eh, so far it's the only snow of the winter.
November 13th brought the strongest storm of the season, with wind gusts to 50+ mph in the Puget Sound region and gusts over 60-70 mph in the North Sound and along the coast. Several trees fell and power was knocked out to hundreds of thousands as damage was estimated at $7 million. It made for some harrowing ferry rides.
The wind transitioned to heavy rain with several rivers flooding. The Skagit River reached its highest level in 11 years.
And if you missed how dark it got during Seattle's partial eclipse on Aug. 21 when the sun was 92% blocked by the moon, no worries. See what it looked like when the sun was 100% blocked by a November cold front:
Weather calmed and dried into December making for the dreaded air stagnation advisories, but what few clouds were around sure put on some shows:
Dec. 12 -- Mt. Rainier puts on spectacular show with multi-layered lenticular clouds
Dec. 12 -- Photos: Fog makes for surreal beauty around Puget Sound region
Dec. 13 - 'Hole'y clouds, Batman! Sea-Tac air traffic causes unique cloud formations over Seattle
Then, just when it looked like the weather was done being interesting for the year, along came the city's first White Christmas since 2008! 1.6" of snow fell on Christmas Eve and then another 1.0" on Christmas Day. It was the heaviest two-day Christmas Holiday snow on record in Seattle, and was deemed by many to be the perfect snow as it was enough to play in, but not really enough to cause widespread isses. And most of it had melted before the next day's commute.
Dec. 24 - Dozens of crashes, road closures after snow blankets Puget Sound region
Dec. 25 - Photos: A White Christmas in Western Washington
Dec. 26 - Snow over Christmas holiday managed feat never before done in Seattle
And Mother Nature's parting shot? An end-of-the-year windstorm in the Seattle region with a lingering ice storm that knocked out power to over 40,000 people in Whatcom County.
Overall, the National Weather Service says weather-related damages were estimated to be close to $56 million during the year. The year`s wind storm damage alone was near $11 million while wildfire suppression efforts also were cost close to $11 million. The big ticket item was $33 million in damage to the West Point Wastewater Treatment Plant during a heavy rain and runoff event in February.
In all, there were eight new record highs set this year -- four in the heart of summer; one very late hot day in September and some Pineapple Express days in the fall. For the sixth consecutive year, Seattle did not set a record low. That was last done on Feb. 25, 2011 (20 degrees.)
Record Highs Set:
June 25 (96)
Aug. 2 (91)
Aug. 3 (94)
Sept. 4 (88)
Sept. 28 (86)
Oct. 28 (68)
Nov. 22 (68)
Nov. 23 (69)
Daily Rainfall Records Set:
Feb. 4 (0.94")
Feb. 15 (1.63")
March 7 (0.75")
April 12 (0.85")
April 18 (0.48")
May 11 (0.47" Tie)
June 15 (1.05")
Oct. 21 (1.61")
2017 Year End Statistics for Seattle
Annual Rain: 47.87" (9th wettest on record; Average 37.49")
Number of days with measurable rain: 162 (Average: 154)
Number of days with 1+" of rain: 11 (Record: 14)
Snowfall (2017 calendar year:) 13.2" (Average 11")
Number of sunny days (0-30% cloud cover): 60 (average: 58)
Number of partly cloudy days (30-70% cover): 171 (average: 81)
Number of overcast days (>70% cloud cover): 134 (average: 226)
Number of days 80 degrees or hotter: 46 (Average: 25)
Number of days at 85 or hotter: 27 (Record! Average: 10)
Number of days at 90 or hotter: 8 (Average: 3)
* Ties all time record