Warm and dry, no snow. Drought and summer windstorm. Record rain and so much snow that the passes were closed repeatedly.
That’s 2015, an El Nino year of extremes.
Olympia weather hit these notable marks:
▪ Coldest: 18 degrees on Dec. 31
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▪ Hottest: 98 degrees on July 31
▪ Wettest: 2.89 inches on Nov. 14
Even though the wettest day was mid-November, the amount of rain in December was also noteworthy.
“What stood out to me was the precipitation in the last month,” said Art Gaebel, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Olympia almost doubled its normal precipitation. A normal December sees 7.46 inches of rain. This year brought 14.5 inches, Gaebel said.
“The drought is over,” Gaebel said, adding “the drought was more perceived than anything else,” although there was a lack of snow in the mountains early in the year.
Not this December, though, when Snoqualmie Pass got 193.3 inches, breaking the record of 192 inches set in 1968. December’s snowfall in the mountains doubled that of all last winter.
Statewide, there were 10 weather-related fatalities and five injuries, according to the National Weather Service. And a freak Aug. 29 windstorm caused almost $5 million in damage.
It was a record warm year, for the second year in a row, based on temperature readings at SeaTac Airport. The average high temperature was 63.5 degrees, a degree higher than the previous record set in 2014 and 1992.
More heat records were set at SeaTac for the most number of days of:
▪ 90 degrees or higher: 12 (9 from 1958)
▪ 85 degrees plus: 26 (22 from 2014)
▪ 80 degrees plus: 51 (47 from 1958)
▪ 70 degrees plus: 116 (115 from 1992)
The El Nino weather pattern began weakly, then began to warm in the spring, becoming what could be the third-warmest El Nino going back to 1950, according to the weather service. The most dramatic storms were in the fall, which is typical for an El Nino year, with heavy rains from Halloween through early December. Landslides closed U.S. 12 over White Pass and part of Interstate 5 near Woodland.
Seattle meteorologist Cliff Mass concurs. In his year-end blog, he notes that the major impact of a strong El Nino are not normally felt until after Jan. 1. That means we can expect warmer and drier El Nino effects going into the new year.
And although the mountains got huge amounts of snow in December, that’s not likely to continue, Mass said. So skiers should enjoy the bounty while it’s here.
Significant weather events for the region
Tornadoes and waterspouts
Jan. 18: An EF1 tornado moved 4 miles through the Gig Harbor area.
Dec. 10: An EF1 tornado touched down in the Battle Ground area.
Aug. 29: A late summer windstorm with gusts to 67 mph caused widespread power outages. Three people died and the storm caused more than $3.5 million in damage.
Nov. 17: Winds up to 62 mph in the lowlands and more than 100 mph in the mountains caused power outages for 300,000 customers. One person died in Monroe.
Flooding, heavy rain, landslides
Jan. 5: Heavy rain caused landslides in Southwest Washington, Seattle and Snohomish County. The Hoquiam area flooded, with closures on Highways 101, 12, 107, 109, 105 and 4.
Oct. 31-Nov. 4: Heavy rain caused 10 rivers to flood, two in the “major flood” category.
Nov 12-21: Heavy rainfall of as much as 20 inches in the mountains and 15 inches in some lowland areas fell through the 18th. Runoff caused 22 rivers to flood, 10 in the major category. Many roads and some homes were flooded.
Dec. 1-14: Heavy rain drove 22 rivers above flood stage, eight at major flood category. The Skokomish River was over flood stage for 10 days, which, according to the weather service, may be the longest time on record.
Dec. 10: The combination of high Chehalis River runoff and seasonal high tides flooded low-lying streets in Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
July 31: The Deckerville wildfire burned eight homes in Mason County. Estimated damages were near $800,000.
Source: National Weather Service Office in Seattle