90 miles as crow flies, but worlds apart on weather

Rain forests near Clearwater, Washington. (Photo: Wil Hay)

The distance from Seattle to Clearwater, Washington is about 90 miles "as the crow flies."

It might as well be Seattle and Mars as far as how different the weather can be sometimes.

Cliff Hay and his wife Nikki have been recording the weather there along the Washington coast just south of Forks for the past 35 years, and over those years, you could argue the case that their rain gauge is the busiest in the nation.

You know how Sequim gets all the press for being in the banana belt, courtesy of the Olympic Rain Shadow? The Hays are on the opposite end -- right smack in the Olympic Rain forest.

As all that moist, ocean air slams into the Olympic Mountains, the air is forced up the slopes. Rising air causes cooling and enhances the clouds and rain on the mountain slopes taking the onslaught. The Olympics are among the highest mountains near this conveyor belt and thus get the most rain of any spot in the lower 48 -- sometimes over 200 inches per year! Thus, the big rain forest.

Hay emailed me some of his rain observations so far this year and you can see there are some dramatic differences on some days between what they received and what we received in Seattle -- sometimes as much as 10-50 times more.

For example, in the rainy period we just finished two weeks ago, Seattle recorded a whopping 0.28" from March 12-14. Clearwater? 10.88"! On Feb. 26, Clearwater got 0.76" of rain while Seattle didn't get any. Both in February and March, Clearwater had one day of rain that was greater than Seattle's monthly total to that point.

Again, this is 90 miles we're talking here -- about the same distance from New York to Philadelphia; from Phoenix to Tucson; from San Francisco to Monterey.

For the year from Jan 1 to March 15, Clearwater has 39.30 inches -- more than Seattle's annual average! (37.5"). Seattle so far is at 7.05".

So if you're a rain fan and really aren't getting your quota in Seattle, just grab your galoshes and head 90 miles to the west!

You can see a daily comparison of Clearwater rain versus Seattle rain this Excel document link