In an unscientific poll of neighbors, friends and co-workers, I asked if they were glad or sad to see the wet stuff return. They were split about as equally as voters in this year’s presidential race.
Me? I’m never mentally ready for the rainy season, despite living in the Pacific Northwest all my life. The older I get, the colder I get in the winter, tempted to turn the home heating system up to 70 degrees when 66 degrees used to work just fine.
So let’s look a little closer at the pros and cons of the prolonged dry spell coming to an end.
We’d all have to agree we need the rain on several fronts, particularly in the battle against several persistent wildfires that have burned thousands of acres in central Washington, destroying homes and outbuildings in their paths.
We dodged a couple of potentially destructive fires here in South Sound this month, first north of Shelton and last week in the Rochester area. In my 28 years of covering news for The Olympian, I can’t remember a single home or life lost to a wildfire in the Olympia area. That’s an amazing stretch of good luck and firefighter success, considering all the population growth and construction that has spread into the rural areas of South Sound.
Another point in the pro-rain camp: The region needs a predictable, consistent annual rainfall to replenish the groundwater supplies it relies on for its drinking water. We can’t become Phoenix North without putting our water resources at risk.
If the salmon could talk, they’d say the same thing about the important role precipitation plays in keeping water flowing in rivers and streams. I imagine there is a big pulse of coho salmon pushing into their spawning grounds this weekend, followed closely in the weeks ahead by the fall chum salmon runs. Without adequate water, they’re all doomed.
The storm systems this weekend also are flushing pollutants out of the air, restoring air quality that suffered because of wildfire smoke.
There are a few things not to like about the sudden return of the wet weather. For one, Puget Sound is receiving a big slug of polluted stormwater this weekend. All the drips, leaks and deposits of oil, grease and brake-liner metal that sat innocently on our parking lots, streets and freeways is on the move to the nearest storm drain. Far too few of those stormwater-conveyance systems provide adequate treatment before dumping their contents into the nearest waterway.
An extended garden growing season is coming to a sudden close. Say goodbye to the tomatoes, peppers, corn and squash that benefitted from the late-summer and early-fall sunny weather. The fruit that hasn’t been harvested soon will be dropping to rot on the ground.
An aside: we bought a food dehydrator two weeks ago and have been drying batches of Asian pears and apples two or three days a week. I have a plastic bag at my desk filled with these nutritious treats. Can you hear me munching away?
The grass will start growing again in this short window between the first rains and the first hard freeze. That means it’s not time yet to winterize the John Deere mower at Horsefeathers Farm. There’s still some autumn mowing to do after several weeks of dormant fields of grass.
The rainy season means different things to different people. Olympia author Jim Lynch told me the other night that the change in the weather marks the earnest beginning of his writing season. Time to get cracking on his fourth book – this one about a family of avid sailors. I can’t wait to read the fruits of his labor.
For many of us, the rainy season signals the start of the movie-going season. It’s no coincidence that the movies likely to contend for this year’s Oscars are just now rolling into a theater near you. We’ve got “The Master,” “Argo” and a biography of Abraham Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis high on our must-see list.
Those interior home-improvement projects start to come into focus once the weather deteriorates and the daylight hours dwindle away. I’ll find any excuse to stay outside and postpone the inside chores as long as the weather’s nice. I suddenly ran out of excuses this weekend. The next big shock to my biological clock will arrive Nov. 4, when daylight saving time comes to an end. After that, not much gets done around the farm on workdays without fumbling around in the dark.
From a practical standpoint, I’m ready for the winter weather. The deck furniture is stashed away, the front porch has a fresh coat of stain, the chimney is cleaned and repaired and the firewood is stacked and stored.
It’s just the mental preparation for the rainy season that I find to be a struggle.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444