If there's snow on your doorstep this morning, then chances are good you started 2005 the way you began 2004. The National Weather Service had the region under a "snow advisory"...
If there’s snow on your doorstep this morning, then chances are good you started 2005 the way you began 2004. The National Weather Service had the region under a “snow advisory” last night and this morning, predicting a chance of mixed rain and snow showers through tonight.
Yet despite winter-storm warnings that plagued Puget Sound residents for weeks early last year, area meteorologists say weather during 2004 was fairly tame, if slightly boring for a region that boasts dynamic weather patterns.
Perhaps what was most unusual last year, says Chris Hill, a National Weather Service meteorologist, was the number of reported tornadoes and lightning events. But Hill says even more such events are likely to be reported in the future.
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“As the population increases, you’re going to have more sets of eyes to see them and report them,” he said. “There’s no real trend there.”
Western Washington residents reported nine tornadoes last year, the most since 14 occurred in 1997 and the second-most ever. Two are the annual norm, area meteorologists say.
Lighting strikes injured three people last year and caused two serious fires. A Seattle-Tacoma International Airport employee was dazed after lighting struck the plane he was loading; a Toledo, Lewis County, man working on a rooftop was seriously injured after being struck by a bolt, and a Graham, Pierce County, woman was shocked when lightning charged a chain-link fence and traveled through her mobile home.
Fires caused by lightning were reported in Brier and Nordland, Jefferson County.
Flooding, an annual occurrence in Western Washington, was responsible for a soggy Thanksgiving.
Yet all the rain and snowfall in 2004 still left most areas 4 to 10 inches behind the average precipitation throughout Western Washington. Isolated storms account for the difference in deficits.
“We’ve been experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures and less precipitation,” Hill said. “That goes along with global trends.”
As recorded at Sea-Tac, high temperatures broke or tied records on eight days last year, including a 95-degree day posted July 24. Temperatures in Olympia hit a few more highs, with 11 days breaking previous records. July 23 and 24 there both hit 99 degrees.
Only September was significantly cooler than average, following a warm, dry summer. Yet a cool snap in August made it seem that summer had abruptly ended. Aug. 2 was the coolest day of that streak, breaking lows at Sea-Tac and in Olympia with 54 and 49 degrees, respectively.
If snow is on people’s minds, then Hill says they should remember the first few weeks of 2004, which brought 4 to 8 inches of snow and ice to Western Washington. More than 150,000 homes were without power at some point during those storms.
Last month, temperatures in Seattle were almost 2 degrees higher than average, with the warmest day Dec. 10, at 59 degrees. On Dec. 18, it was still warm, tying the record high of 54 set in 2003.
December lows never sank below 29 degrees (Dec. 28). The area got a little less than 4.5 inches of precipitation last month, making it a drier-than-usual December, despite the flooding of the region’s rivers including the Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Nooksack and Skagit during the second week of the month.
In all, flood and weather-related property damage came to about $4.5 million through October 2004. Damage totals from November and December floods have not yet been reported.
As this weekend comes to a finish, Hill says, keep mufflers, gloves and warm coats handy. An Arctic front should already have arrived, possibly bringing with it snow, thus leaving us where we started.
Christopher Schwarzen: 425-783-0577 or firstname.lastname@example.org