Thursday, November 16, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Corrected version

It's the wettest November on record — already

Seattle Times staff reporter

Ski-area updates

The Summit at Snoqualmie:

No opening decision yet; officials will assess the snow after Wednesday's rain. 206-236-1600.

Stevens Pass: Opening Friday. 206-634-1645.

Crystal Mountain: Most lifts open today. 888-754-6199.

Mount Baker: Opens today. 360-734-6771.

Mountain pass conditions: As of late Wednesday: no restrictions at Snoqualmie, Stevens or White passes.

You've heard the jokes about Seattle's rain: That everyone here has webbed feet, that daylight-saving time here means an extra hour of rain, that the Pillsbury Doughboy has a better tan than Seattle residents.

Welcome to the wettest November in Seattle-area history.

No joke.

Wednesday's storm pushed the rain total at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport past 11.62 inches for the month to eclipse the record set in November 1998. And we're only halfway through the month.

As of late Wednesday, 0.44 inches of rain had fallen at the National Weather Service recording station at Sea-Tac, raising the monthly total to 11.63 inches of rain.

What's more, forecasters say this could wind up as the wettest month in area history if the rain keeps up.

A storm similar in intensity to Wednesday's is forecast to roll in Sunday, bringing more wind and rain.

The end of November is historically the stormiest time of the year for the Northwest, said University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass.

"The jet stream is basically moving right over us," he said. "We're right in the storm track."

The wettest month in history here was December 1933, when 15.33 inches fell at the Federal Building in downtown Seattle, before the weather service set up its rain gauges at Sea-Tac. Since Sea-Tac has been the recording station, the wettest month was January 1953, with 12.92 inches.

"It's certainly an oddball year," said Mass. January 2006 already ranks as the area's fifth-wettest month on record with 11.65 inches of precipitation. "It's going to remain stormy for a long period of time."

This storm, along with the storms that flooded parts of Western Washington last week, Mass said, was a product of the Pineapple Express, the term used for storms that follow the jet stream from Hawaii to the Northwest, bringing lots of rain and warm temperatures.

Rain and high winds Wednesday uprooted trees, caused power outages, closed some roads and bridges, disrupted ferry service and turned the evening commute into something that could be called "Survivor: Seattle."

The state Department of Transportation reported wind gusts of 40 mph on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge across Lake Washington. The Hood Canal Bridge was closed from 11:40 a.m. until about 2:15 p.m. because of high winds.

A downed tree blocked northbound lanes of Interstate 5 near Bellingham.

Power went out in Carnation about 3 p.m., and the fire station had to switch to emergency power.

Trees were reported down in a number of areas south, east and north of Seattle.

In Snohomish County, winds knocked trees onto Highway 530 west of Darrington, taking out power lines and closing the road. A slide closed one lane of Highway 2 near Index.

During the day, an estimated 135,000 customers of Puget Sound Energy were without electricity at some point, along with 5,500 Snohomish County PUD customers and 2,000 Tacoma Power customers. There were still scattered outages Wednesday night.

The King County Road Services Division reported 18 road problems related to the wind and rain.

One situation improved Wednesday, though, as King County completed an emergency-access road to the Upper Preston area. The temporary road along the south embankment of Interstate 90 in the Preston area, about 30 miles east of Seattle, will allow emergency crews to get fire and aid equipment to the area of about 200 homes.

The route was partly destroyed in heavy rains Nov. 6 and later had to be closed completely as more of the roadway collapsed.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for most of Western Washington because of the rain. Limited flooding was expected overnight, but nothing compared to last week.

"There's going to be enough rain today [Wednesday] that some of the rivers will get near flood stage," Mass said.

During an El Niño year, like this one, the jet stream will split later in the winter, sending rain and storms to southern Alaska and Southern California, leaving the Northwest relatively dry, Mass said.

But that hasn't happened yet.

Computer models for the next century that show the effects of global warming on the Northwest predict more precipitation in November, though Mass said it's too soon to draw any conclusions about this month.

"One month doesn't prove anything, but it's interesting that all the global-warming simulations were predicting more precipitation in November," he said.

The forecast for next week could be good news for skiers, Mass said.

Computer models show cooler temperatures and significant snowfall in the mountains starting next week, he said.

"Looks like pretty favorable conditions. I have no doubt a lot of the ski places will be open for Thanksgiving."

Times staff reporters Christopher Schwarzen and Peyton Whitely contributed to this report.

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or

Information in this article, originally published November 16, 2006, was corrected November 19, 2006. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the amount of precipitation for the month as of the evening of Nov. 15 was 11.64 inches. The error was based on information from the National Weather Service. The correct total was 11.63 inches.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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