2009 was a year of weather extremes: We flooded in January, baked in May, roasted in July and froze in December.

Share story

We flooded in winter, baked in spring, roasted in summer, and froze in the fall: 2009 was a tantrum of a year, full of extreme weather.

The year started with flooding. Heavy rains in January across Western Washington caused 18 rivers to flood, with six hitting record or near-record crests.

From Jan. 6 through 9, rainfall of 8 to 20 inches in the mountains and 1 to 9 inches in the lowlands destroyed or severely damaged nearly 500 homes in Western Washington, especially in Snohomish, King, Thurston and Lewis counties.

There was record flooding on the Snoqualmie and Tolt rivers and the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, and near-record flooding of the Snohomish, Newaukum and Skookumchuck rivers. Officials evacuated more than 44,000 people because of flooding and landslides, according to the National Weather Service.

Swollen rivers covered parts of Interstate 5 for the fourth time since 1990 and inundated homes and businesses in virtually every county in Western Washington.

Tacoma declared a civil emergency as the Puyallup River flooded. A 20-mile stretch of I-5 was shut down from the Centralia-Chehalis area into Thurston County. Damage was estimated at $72.1 million.

The state was partly paralyzed, with I-5 closed south of Olympia and three of the state’s major east-west routes — Highway 2, Interstate 90 and Highway 12 — temporarily blocked by avalanches and mudslides.

The Howard Hanson Dam in King County took a bruising from the swollen Green River, and the resulting damage raised flood risk, making for an anxious rainy season this winter.

Then we baked in the spring, when an unusually long dry spell set in from mid-May to mid-June. Twenty-nine consecutive days passed from May 20 through June 17 without any measurable precipitation at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, tying with 1982 for the driest spring.

In July we roasted. Records melted during a heat wave that drove temperatures at Sea-Tac to 103 degrees on the 29th, surpassing the all-time high of 100 set in 1994.

Olympia saw 104 degrees that day, Bellingham 96. Seattle sizzled in 105-degree heat, another all-time high, recorded at the Weather Service office.

Then we froze in early December, before winter had even officially begun. Daily record lows chilled the entire region, with Olympia shivering at just 6 degrees above zero on Dec. 8, 9 and 10, the coldest temperatures there this decade.

And don’t forget Labor Day weekend in Enumclaw. On Sept. 6, a tornado touched down near Buckley, Pierce County, and zoomed northeast nearly to Enumclaw, lasting 10 minutes. That’s an unheard-of duration around these parts. Peak winds topped 110 mph and damage totaled nearly $200,000.

The tornado reduced a barn in Buckley to rubble and a silo to a pile of bricks. The twister topped off a day of torrential rainfall and a storm that ripped roofs and siding off several buildings, tore trees out by the roots and knocked out power to about 1,200 Puget Sound Energy customers.

Look outside, is it raining? Just rain? What’s a little rain after the extremes of the past 12 months?

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com