Winter's snow was late. Spring was long, cool and wet. Summer seemed all too short. Fall arrived early with rain and more rain, followed by wind and an early snowstorm.
Western Washington’s weather in 2010 – from a mild start to a windy, rainy end – is detailed in a review released Tuesday by the Seattle office of the National Weather Service.
There were rain- and windstorms, falling trees and widespread power outages. There was even a handful of small tornadoes, the closest one to Olympia touching down Oct. 25 near Toledo in Lewis County.
El Niño, the ocean-warming phenomenon that usually brings warmer, mild winter weather to the Northwest, started 2010 off right. January and February temperatures ranged from 3 to 6 degrees above average, while precipitation was close to normal.
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Sea-Tac Airport recorded the highest average temperature ever for a January with 47 degrees, breaking the record of 46.6 degrees set in 2006. The Olympia airport recorded its second-warmest January ever at an average of 43.7 degrees.
Average temperatures in May and June were 1 to 3 degrees below normal, while rainfall was 1 to 2.5 inches above average.
The high temperature at Sea-Tac didn’t reach 75 degrees or higher until June 23 – the latest ever, according to the Weather Service.
It was wet as well as cool. On March 29, the Olympia airport recorded a record 24-hour rainfall of 1.38 inches.
Summer saw heat waves in July and August with temperatures in the 90s, setting record highs for three days in July and two in August. But overall, temperatures those months averaged less than 1 degree below normal, and rainfall was below normal.
“So the summer of 2010 was basically an average one,” according to the review.
September and October brought plenty of rain; amounts were 2 to 5 inches above normal.
“Sea-Tac Airport had its third wettest September ever with 4.80 inches – just over 3 inches above normal,” according to the survey.
The last two months of the year produced record contrasts.
Sea-Tac hit 74 degrees Nov. 3. On Nov. 24, the temperature plunged 60 degrees to 14 degrees – the greatest drop in a month there on record, according to the review.
La Niña, which brings unsettled weather, arrived that month.
A mid-month storm brought winds up to 64 miles per hour in the north and up to 44 mph elsewhere. It toppled trees and knocked out power to 200,000 customers. A week later, 80,000 lost power in another windstorm.
The first cold weather gripped the area during the third week of November. Lowland snowfall ranged from a foot deep on the northern Olympic Peninsula to 1 to 4 inches elsewhere.
In December, La Niña produced a “Pineapple Express” that dumped 6 to 12 inches of rain in the mountains and between 1 and 4 inches in the lowlands. Seventeen area rivers exceeded flood stage, though flooding was minimal in most places. More than 50 landslides were reported.
The day after the rains, a line of squalls hit with high winds that knocked out power to more than 100,000 customers.
Despite all that, the review notes, “Temperatures in Western Washington were about 1 degree above normal for the year. Most of the record temperatures set during the year were high temperatures with very few record lows.”
Still, area rainfall totals ranged from 6 to 15 inches above the norm.