So many dire warnings before we left Texas:
“You’re moving where?? You know it rains all the time in the Northwest, don’t you?”
“Washington, huh? Hope you like rain!”
“Oh, I’ve heard it’s pretty up there, but I wouldn’t be able to handle all that rain.”
“Sure, summers are nice; otherwise it’s always raining.”
Since we’ve been here in Washington, less rain has fallen than it has back in Austin. And the thing is, that trend will likely continue. See, Port Townsend is in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mountains. Average annual rainfall: about 19 inches.
This is what a rain shadow looks like from above:
Well, okay, it probably doesn’t look exactly like that. I’ve only ever flown to Seattle in the dark, but I doubt there are purple outlines and orange arrows up there even in the daytime. Still, imagine yourself waking from a nap on the plane only to open the window shade to see this. It’d be almost as alarming as that Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner.
Although we’ve seen the sun far more often than not during our tenure as Pacific Northwest residents, we’re not letting it lull us into a false notion of reality. We’re well aware that over the year as a whole, while we won’t get a lot of rainfall, clouds and gray skies will prevail. Even self-proclaimed “Sunny Sequim,” the nearby town that boasts its rain shadow locale more than any of the others, has been overcast two out of three times we’ve passed through it.
I mean, c’mon, it’s time for them to face facts. How sunny can it be and still grow moss on the Chamber of Commerce asphalt parking lot?
You know the hole in the clouds in the previous satellite image, where the orange arrows are pointing? We’ve witnessed this effect from ground level many times already. Often it’s overcast in the early morning — “early” meaning 7 to 8 a.m. in temporarily-retiredspeak — after which the sun breaks through and the clouds form a circle around Port Townsend, like a big donut. (Oh all right…probably around Sequim too, the braggart.) On those days, even with beautiful views of the water, clouds obscure the Olympic Mountains to the southwest and the Cascades to the east.
It’s a different story on perfectly clear days, like our first visit to lovely Chetzemoka Park when I was able to snap a clandestine GQ picture of John with Mount Rainier looking on.
By the way, according to the explanatory placard, the park was named for a Native American who was proclaimed a hero by European pioneers for warning them when his tribe was planning an ambush. “So he was a spy!” I exclaimed.
I guess it’s a matter of perspective.
We get a different view of the Cascades — one with Mount Baker hogging most of the attention — on our stroll into the downtown area,
unless the clouds are donutting. In that case, we see this:
The Olympic Mountains play a similar game of hide and seek. The day John arrived at the rental house in Port Townsend, the Olympics made for an impressive welcome wagon.
We can supposedly see these mountains from the house we’re getting ready to buy, as well, yet on all three visits to our soon-to-be home the donut remained stubbornly in place.
(Don’t get me wrong, however. I’m not complaining about our future view.)
Now, I’m not claiming to understand the rain shadow phenomenon from a scientific standpoint. I’m no scientist. Or climatologist. Or ist of any sort who’d be able to stay awake for the entire meteorological explanation. All I know is the weather patterns in this area are downright goofy. Take, for example, a graphic from one of the local news station’s radar showing wind speeds and directions.
I mean, really, who can make sense of that? John and I used to be forecast junkies, noting the nuances of each approaching front, able to almost predict the weather ourselves (at least as well as the people paid to do it on TV). But we don’t see it happening here. And while that’s not enough reason to make us want to relocate again, it will certainly crimp our style come each evening’s local newscast.
Of all the grievous warnings we received back in Texas, not one person mentioned we’d be moving to a place with so many crazy arrows.