2018 Weather Year in Review: Bluest skies you've ever seen? Not in Seattle this year...
SEATTLE -- Usually, the big question about Seattle weather is whether the skies are blue or grey. But 2018 will be long remembered for the days on end they were a choking shade of orange-brown.
Raging summertime wildfires across the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and California repeatedly send thick smoke into the region this summer, making some of the worst air quality the area has seen since the mid 1980s.
Aside from the smoke, the year will likely be remembered for the strongest tornado to strike the region in decades. An EF-2 touched down in Port Orchard on what had been a rather innocuous weather day. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured despite destroying more than 20 homes, including one that had its roof ripped completely off.
Overall, it was another warm year with an average temperature of 54.7 degrees -- well above the average of 52.0 degrees. It will go down as the 4th warmest year on record, with the Top 3 all from this decade (2015/55.6, 2016/55.1 and 2014/55.0). Rainfall wise, we came in just a little below normal at 35.73 inches -- average is 37.59 inches. It does break a streak of four consecutive years with above normal rainfall.
Let's take a trip down memory lane and relive all the weather events!
2017 began with a New Year's snow! 2018 started with... a whimper. It would take until Jan. 18 before we would have our first significant weather event of the year -- a wind storm. About 10,000 lost power but the larger calling card was the 30-35 foot waves along the coast.
Jan. 15 -- This is winter?!? Seattle ties all-time January record high at Sea-Tac with 64 degrees
Jan. 18 -- Overnight storm topples trees, knocks out power; coastal flooding reported
Jan. 18 -- Flooding reported as Washington coast battered by gigantic waves
And some close lightning strikes:
We didn't have to wait long for the next wind storm, which hit Tacoma with 50 mph winds, knocking a tree into a home along S. 6th Ave.
It wasn't much of a winter by this point in the lowlands, but check out the wintry scene up at Hurricane Ridge where a blizzard hit on Jan. 28. "It is like being sand blasted," rangers wrote on the Olympic National Park Facebook page.
Persistent rain was the story to end January into early February, complete with some strange clouds over Tacoma. Blue skies would remain evasive until Feb. 9
Jan. 29 -- Heavy rains bring flooding to Skokomish River area
Jan. 30 -- Spooky mammatus clouds invade skies over Tacoma
Feb. 5 --Landslides, flooding close roads, highways in North Sound
Feb. 9 -- Forgot what the sun looks like? Seattle expecting first sunny day in nearly a month
Winter probably felt like it didn't really get going until mid-February, when we had our first bout with lowland snow and had a few more dances with snowflakes -- pausing for a windstorm in between on Feb. 17 -- culminating with a snow event on Feb. 21 that saw hundreds of school delay class starts, though Seattle only managed 1" of snow. It would be Seattle's only measurable snow of the year.
Feb. 14 -- Morning snowfall catches North Sound by surprise
Feb. 16 -- Heavy snow creates mess at Snoqualmie Pass as stormy pattern begins
Feb. 17 -- Over 30,000 lose power as windstorm blows through region
Feb. 17 -- Focus shifts to lowland snow, cold winds as arctic air heads our way
Feb. 18 -- From windy Saturday to wintry Sunday as some places get slammed with snow
Feb. 18 -- Parts of Snohomish County hit hard by blast of winter snow
Feb. 19 -- Photos: Icy temps create perfect opportunity for freezing bubbles
Feb. 20 --Incoming weather system spreads snow along coast, South Sound
Feb. 21 -- Icy roads, school closures as more snow heads for parts of W. Wash.
Feb. 21 -- Snow, low temperatures create icy conditions across Western Washington
BUT! Seattle did something it hadn't done in seven years -- set a record low temperature! Both Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 had lows in the low-mid 20s, breaking record lows.
Feb. 22 -- Seattle sets first record low temperature in seven years
Feb. 22 --More than 200 school delays, closures in W. Wash. as snow, ice coat roads
Feb. 26 -- Two teenage snowshoers killed by avalanche near Alpental
Feb. 26 -- Convergence Zone snow in North Sound triggers some school delays
Overall though, the fall and winter of 2017-18 was pretty disappointing for lowland snow fans.
Spring was relatively tame, albeit wet in April which ended up the 3rd wettest on record. There were a few active thunderstorm-y days, but through the end of May there was not lot to write about here:
March 13 -- That ol' east wind makes for summertime night in heart of winter around Seattle
March 17 -- Mountain thunderclouds make for colorful, eerie sunsets
March 23 -- Weather system brings snow, hail, rain to Western Washington
April 1 -- Watch: Ominous shelf cloud blows over Downtown Seattle
April 16 -- Saturday was the wettest April weekend day on record in Seattle
April 20 -- Spring finally here? The 70s return to Seattle amid sunshine next week -
May 1 -- April finishes up 3rd wettest on record yet warmer than average
May 2 -- Tulips show off their color across the Pacific Northwest -
May 15 -- Seattle's first half of May checks in warmer than parts of Los Angeles
Perhaps signaling a theme, a storm on May 29 brought a dust devil that put on quite a show on Lake Washington.
The dust devil swirled across the water, onto the shoreline and then proceeded to toss everything in its 20-30-foot-wide path into the air, or into the water.
"Oh my God, it's tearing the roof; it's tossing picnic tables into the water -- just crazy," photographer Peter Barnes said.
June ushered in summer on a fairly quiet note with the exception of June 25 when a thunderstorm managed to hit a Seattle-bound jet. No biggie.
June 1 -- Warmest May on record now 9th monthly record to be set in past 5 years
June 7 -- That's a lot of snow, eh? Walk along Whistler's towering 15-40' snow walls
June 25 -- Lightning hits Seattle-bound jet, puts on a show as summertime front sweeps through
June 27 -- Sun halo bingo! Clouds produce every atmospheric optical trick in the book around Seattle
While that dust devil on Lake Washington was something to behold, one in Oregon tried to outdo it:
"I thought it was going to stay in the field and go right past us," says Jennifer Scott.
But the dust devil kept coming - and eventually blew right over their truck, pelting it with large swaths of hay and straw.
"It was so exciting, we were screaming like crazy!" she said. "The truck shook and you could hear the hay scratching the truck."
Right on cue, the weather got hot as we passed Independence Day with the first of what would become a near-record 11 90+ degree days this year on July 23 (though Seattle never managed to reach 95.)
July would go on to be the hottest on record in Seattle by average high temperature. We also had our first bout with wildfire smoke, but it would be nothing compared to what was coming in August.
July 9 -- What luck? It's rained on nearly every Saturday in Seattle since the start of April
July 13 -- The heat is on: Inaugural 90s of the year set for early next week
July 23 -- Heat advisory in effect for Seattle area, cooling stations opened
July 30 -- Photos: Smoky skies make for fiery sunsets around Puget Sound
July 31 -- Seem hot? You bet: July was hottest one on record in Seattle
By Aug. 9, Seattle had notched 10 90-degree days.
Then the smoke returned with a vengeance. The period of Aug. 13-15 brought some of the worst air quality in decades as it dipped into "very unhealthy" categories, with even a few spots listed as "hazardous."
Aug. 13 -- Smoke blankets Seattle area, air quality worsens
Aug. 14 -- Thick wildfire smoke blankets Seattle with another gunky day on the way
Aug. 15 -- Smoky 'unhealthy' air is now worst in Seattle this century. How'd it get so bad?
Aug, 15 -- Think the air quality is bad now? You should have seen the 1980s...
We'd get a break for a day or two, but the rest of August was marked by multiple returns of the thick smoke. Some parks and outdoor pools closed as health officials urged people to stay indoors. Burn bans were implemented, prohibiting campfires and charcoal barbecues in an effort to limit smoke.
Aug. 18 -- Wildfire smoke about to inundate Western Washington once again
Aug. 20 -- 'Unhealthy' air prompts stage 1 burn ban in 4 Western Washington counties
Aug. 20 -- Ash from wildfires falling in some areas, bad air quality increasing mask & filter sales
Aug. 21 -- 'Very unhealthy' to even 'hazardous' air may last into Thursday
Aug. 23 -- Smoky skies helped it rain across Seattle Thursday morning
Aug. 26 -- Air quality alert in effect for some Washington counties
Sept. 1 -- Seattle wraps up second-hottest, second-driest meteorological summer on record
Summer's dry season began to fade in September with a few storms finding their way into the Northwest, including two funnel clouds spotted on Sept. 17 and a rather intense Convergence Zone on the 24th.
Sept. 16 -- 2 funnel clouds spotted over Puget Sound region on stormy Sunday
Sept. 24 -- Puget Sound Convergence Zone highlights how wacky the weather can get here
Oct. 1 -- Where'd the rain go? Seattle finishes up driest 5 month period on record
October usually is the start of the stormy season, but overall, October and November were relatively quiet with no news-worthy storms until Nov. 26 -- note the rare extended gap in referenced stories between Nov. 4-21. Usually November can be a page onto itself!
But the tranquil weather still made for some picturesque scenes, including some ash being blown off Mt. St. Helens and an adventurous Alaska Airlines pilot that gave passengers a once-in-a-lifetime view of Mt. Rainier while waiting out a fog delay at Sea-Tac.
Oct. 15 -- Strong winds blow ash off Mt. St. Helens
Oct. 18 -- What's with the funky looking cloud over Covington?
Oct. 23 -- Photos: Autumn fog makes for gorgeously tranquil Northwest scenes
Nov. 1 -- Despite recent soggy weather, it's driest start to a year in a decade
Nov. 4 -- Weekend storm leaves some rivers running high
Nov. 21 -- Photos: Blanket of fog makes for spooky, dramatic scenes
Nov. 21 -- Alaska Air pilot's detour gives passengers stunning view of Mt. Rainier
The first wind storm of the season came on Nov. 26 with gusts to 62 mph in Bellingham. A couple from Bellingham wasn't in the city but instead was over along the coast returning from Thanksgiving when their car was struck by a falling tree. Somehow, they survived without a scratch! -- and managed to take one epic photo:
Nov. 26 -- Late November storm prompts High Wind Warnings, Flood Watches
Nov. 26 -- Bellingham couple escapes death 'by grace of God and seat belts' after tree topples on car
Nov. 27 -- Epic Olympic Rain Shadow brings wild range of rainfall totals from Monday storm
Dec. 3 -- Photographer captures stunning pic of double-reflection rainbow off Hood Canal
Dec. 11 -- Heavy snow in mountains; soggy commutes in the lowlands
Then what will certainly go down as the stormiest week of the year began on Dec. 14 with a two-pronged windstorm.
That morning, a rare mountain wave event blasted the Port Angeles area with 45-55 mph winds, knocking over several trees not accustomed to the unusual south winds, and severing both main power feeder lines into Clallam County, plunging all of Port Angeles and Sequim into the dark.
Later that day, strong winds reaching as high as 50-60 mph swept into the Puget Sound region, knocking out power to about 200,000 people. The I-90 Floating Bridge hit 62 mph and winds hit well over 50 mph on Puget Sound.
Nowhere was that more evident than riding the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, where Lake Stevens storm chaser Ben Jurkovich had a front row seat to the stormy seas:
Four days later, the strongest tornado to strike the state in decades swept into Port Orchard. The storm damaged over 200 homes, with some sustaining heavy damage. More than a dozen were red-tagged with one home completely losing its roof.
Emily Silverman was caught in the tornado as she was driving with her husband and 2-year-old son near the Walmart.
"And it's raining and it's pouring down really bad and before you know it everything was flying everywhere," she said. "Our car back windows blew out, our side windows blew out. Things hit us -- there were a few people who had some head injuries from being hit by things. A car got pushed into a back... there was an accident. It was crazy. There were things flying everywhere. I thought I was a goner."
She had her 2-year-old son in the back seat.
"So glad he's OK because the whole back window just busted in," Silverman said. "If it kept going and didn't leave as fast as it did, he could have been hurt really bad."
The storm would eventually be classified as a EF-2 tornado -- the most powerful tornado in the state since 1986. Luckily there were no serious injuries.
"To some degree it was right time, right place, and pure luck," said Scott Wilson with the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office. "Santa Claus looking over us, maybe.... call it the 'Miracle on Bethel Avenue.' "
Dec. 18 -- Several homes damaged as strong tornado touches down in Port Orchard
Dec. 18 -- Photos: Tornado-strewn damage across Port Orchard
Dec. 18 -- Port Orchard tornado confirmed an EF-2, strongest tornado in state since 1986
The week finished off with the most powerful windstorm of the year as a 985 mb low crashed into Vancouver Island, bringing a swath of 50-70 mph winds across Western Washington.
Over 300,000 people lost power as the winds swept through, knocking over trees and power lines. At the peak of the storm, winds registered a gust of 66 mph in Everett and 59 mph on the floating bridges.
It once again made for harrowing rides on the ferries, especially on the Mukilteo-to-Clinton run:
In the far North Sound, the strong winds combined with high tide to create a 2-foot storm surge along Whatcom County's Birch Bay, with massive waves damaging a waterfront restaurant:
Damage along Birch Bay was estimated at $5 million.
Dec. 20 -- Over 300,000 lose power as storm with 60 mph wind blows into region
Dec. 20 -- Watch: Storm surge floods waterfront restaurant in Birch Bay
Dec. 20 -- Watch: Video from the windstorm hitting Western Washington
After a tranquil Christmas, a few more soggy storms rolled through toward the final week of the year, but they weren't enough to get us to a normal year's worth of rainfall. New Year's Eve was about the same as New Year's Day: Calm.
All the stats:
As mentioned earlier, it was a very warm year, evidenced by 13 new record highs and an additional 6 more that were tied:
Jan. 13 -- 58
Jan. 15 -- 64
Jan. 16 -- 56
Jan. 28 -- 57 (T)
Mar. 12 -- 73
April 24 -- 77
April 26 -- 82 (T)
May 13 -- 85
May 14 -- 88
June 20 -- 88 (T)
July 15 -- 93
July 26 -- 92 (T)
Aug. 21 -- 91
Aug. 22 -- 89
Oct. 16 -- 72
Nov. 12 -- 61
Nov. 27 -- 58 (T)
Dec. 18 -- 54 (T)
Dec. 20 -- 59
But for the first time since 2011, we have new record lows! Two of them, in fact!
Feb. 22 -- 26
Feb. 23 -- 24
Daily Rainfall records:
April 14: 1.70"
November 26: 1.42"
November 27: 1.84"
2018 Year End Statistics for Seattle:
Annual Rain: 35.73" (Average 37.49")
Number of days with measurable rain: 158 (Average: 154)
Number of days with 1+" of rain: 5
Snowfall (2018 calendar year): 1.0" (Average: 11")
Number of sunny days (0-30% cloud cover): 61 (average: 58)
Number of partly cloudy days (30-70% cover): 170 (average: 81)
Number of overcast days (>70% cloud cover): 134 (average: 226)
Number of days 80 degrees or hotter: 45 (Average: 27)
Number of days at 85 or hotter: 32 (Record! Average: 11)
Number of days at 90 or hotter: 11 (Average: 3)