Busting the Seattle Weather Myths

I have personally lived in Seattle for my entire life, and in the past 35 years, I’ve gained extensive knowledge about the city as a whole, with a particular understanding of the weather here and its patterns. It is my desire to share that with you in the form of this article, and BUST some of Seattle’s weather myths!

OK, so where to start? First off, why don’t we bust a few myths about “weather”. When you tell someone that you live in Seattle, It doesn’t take long before you see “that look” on their face, you know the look…it’s the “oh man, I bet you have a whole closet full of North Face gear” look. The look is typically followed by a statement such as “wow, you’re from Seattle huh? I hear it rains all the time there!). So, here’s the real deal when it comes to Seattle and rain:

It does rain. A lot.

Wait, that wasn’t what you were expecting me to say, was it? Well….the truth is the truth, and I can’t change it no matter how badly I want to, so there you go! BUT, and this is a big ‘ol but, the rain we get in Seattle is NOT AT ALL like the rain that much of the country is accustomed to seeing when it rains in their hood. Rather, Seattle rain is much more likely to come in the form of a light mist than a full on downpour. This is why locals typically walk around with the outward appearance that a hike could break out at any moment. You see, in Seattle, rain isn’t a reason to run inside and hide until Spring. Instead, it’s just “another day” and it doesn’t stop anyone from getting out for a run, or walking their dog, going for a hike, cycling, playing sports, or anything else for that matter! We just roll with the mist!!!

Now that we’ve got the “rain myth”, as I call it, out of the way, we can move on to the REAL weather culprit that has led to the belief that Seattle and Seattleites suffer from rain and misery for the majority of the year. In a word, it’s “Grey”. You see, in Seattle, in the winter months, it’s not the misty rain that slows people down or has them heading for tropical locales, it’s the grey. It’s a general lack of sunshine and daylight. The latter can be explained away by our northern latitude. What results in spectacularly long summer days with sunsets that don’t come until after 9:00Pm also causes incredibly short winter days. Sunrise in the heart of winter may not be until almost 8:00AM and sunset comes early at 3:30PM. That creates an issue where even seeing daylight is difficult during the winter, especially for folks living in Seattle who have a 9-5 job! As far as the former goes, the grey is a result of typically heavy cloud cover that darkens the sky even at mid-day. It’s this grey that has once excited California transplants running back for the smog and comfort of their homeland!

Once you realize this, it becomes pretty clear why Seattle is known so strongly (heh, another pun) for coffee! When you don’t see the sun for days or weeks at a time, caffeine becomes not a pleasantry, but a necessity to get going in the morning!

So far this all sounds pretty dreary right (pun absolutely intended!)? Well, it is…and it’s the exact reason that my wife and I make it a point to get away on a tropical vacation during the heart of the winter. It turns out that sunlight is the most glorious thing in the world when you’ve gone a month or two without seeing it for only a few minutes!

Moving on, let’s talk about snow. Wait, what…snow? Does it snow in Seattle? Well, yes and no. As I type this article, it has snowed 3 times in the past few weeks. However, it must be stated that the snow we have received here in the past few weeks has surpassed the snow we’ve cumulatively received in the past few YEARS! Typically, Seattle only sees snow a handful of times in the year (if that), and even that is highly variable depending on where in the city you are. For example, we have a Chiropractic office in Capitol Hill, and we live in Ballard which is a neighborhood right at sea level. It is not uncommon at all for us to have no snow in Ballard and arrive at our Chiropractic office with 1-2 inches of snow here on Capitol Hill!

I would wager that the other thing people immediately think of when they think of “Seattle” and “snow” in the same sentence is the fact that entire city seems to shut down with even the lightest dusting. That is certainly no myth, the city does shut down, to a somewhat hilarious degree when even the most inconsequential amount of white stuff start descending from the heavens. So, where does the great “Seattle Snow Myth” come into play. Well, I believe that Seattleites get a bit of an unfair reputation for being big weenies who are completely inept at piloting a motorized vehicle in the snow.

Now, at this point the author of this article should state that he DOES feel the above sentence has a big chunk of truth to it. HOWEVER, I can’t say that it’s the true culprit for this myth. The real reason revolves around something called “hills”. For much of the country that is used to living in a winter wonderland for half of the year, they love to look down at Seattleites and laugh, but the truth of the matter is that it isn’t the SNOW here that makes the streets unpassable, it’s the HILLS. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos on YouTube of some guy in an apartment building looking down at a steep street and videotaping the carnage, but if you haven’t go check them out now for a good laugh. It’s OK, I’ll wait…….

…. Yep, pretty hilarious stuff right? You see, when you sprinkle an inch or two of snow on the hilly streets of Seattle, combine that with a hard freeze overnight, and add a generous helping of California transplants who have never driven in snow before…those YouTube videos are what result.

So, there’s another myth busted. Seattleites aren’t 100% responsible for their snow driving reputation after-all.

Shifting gears a bit, I have saved the very best and brightest (you’ll see what I mean in a minute) Seattle myth for last! Let’s talk a little bit about Seattle summers,  but first let me pose a question to you. If Seattle winters are so grey and dreary, why would anyone put up with living here? Well the answer to that question is that we have some of the most BEAUTIFUL summers anywhere on the PLANET! That’s right, the price we pay for all the winter nonsense is 100% worth it when you experience your first Seattle summer!

If I were to give a snapshot of the “average” summer Seattle day, it would go something like this. Cool night, sunrise at 6:00AM, a high of 72-80 degrees and a day that last all the way past 9:00PM in the evening. When you pair that kind of weather with the stellar outdoor playground that is the Pacific Northwest, it all becomes clear. Summers in Seattle are almost indescribable! It turns out that it doesn’t rain here all year ‘round. In fact, you’re virtually guaranteed to get good weather with no rain in the summer.

So there you go, a few Seattle myths BUSTED! Now, I just have one favor to ask of you now that you’ve read this article. Don’t tell anyone else about what you’ve learned here today, because us Seattleites enjoy having this playground to ourselves!


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