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Whidbey's unusually sunny summer gives way to dark days ahead
The Angus cattle at Bell’s Farm on Central Whidbey didn’t seem to pay much attention to the dark clouds hovering overhead Tuesday morning.
It’s the rumble of machinery, not thunder, that makes the bulls bellow.
“When they see a truck or when they hear you start up a tractor, they think they’re getting fed,” said Dorothy Mueller, one of the farmers in the family business. “It doesn’t matter if there’s food there. They’re going to talk about it.”
Lightning storms in recent weeks have signaled a clear change in the weather on Whidbey Island as the sunny summer has transitioned to a cloudier, windier and wetter fall season.
Farmers such as Mueller will remember the summer of 2013 for the amount of sunshine that produced strawberries on time and other crops such as corn, beans and peas two weeks ahead of schedule.
Mueller, who’s been farming at Bell’s Farm for 21 years, said they’ve never harvested corn two weeks ahead of schedule on their farm on West Beach Road northwest of Coupeville.
“I would say if you talk to any farmer on Whidbey Island, the consensus is it was a fantastic summer,” said Renee Mueller, Dorothy’s sister-in-law.
Farming success didn’t result from extreme temperatures. The number of sunny days was a key factor, Renee Mueller said.
David Broberg, owner of the Blue Goose Inn in Coupeville, closely tracks weather on Central Whidbey because he is a weather hobbyist and he wants to keep his guests informed. A recipient of National Weather Service training, he installed a certified weather station on his inn’s roof and lists detailed data on his website at www.coupevilleweather.com.
Broberg, who took over the inn in February, doesn’t have historic data from the island but provided a bounty of information from this summer.
He pointed out that there have been 152 rainy days and 11.44 inches of rainfall this year in Coupeville heading into October.
“My station considers it rain if there’s any more than one one-hundredth of an inch,” Broberg said.
Broberg said the most consecutive days without rain this summer was 19, ending July 17.
He said there were only three days that reached 80 degrees or more, with the warmest day of 83.2 degrees happening on Sept. 11. It reached 80 degrees on June 30 and Aug. 22.
Broberg said he’s noticed different large variations of weather on the island, even on opposite sides of Coupeville. He said he’s seen temperatures fluctuate by as many as 10 degrees on his drive from Coupeville to Clinton to catch a ferry.
“I’m surprised,” he said.
Beginning with the lightning storm that struck Whidbey Island on Sept. 5, the weather has begun to change.
The winter forecast is a bit of an unknown, according to KOMO News meteorologist Scott Sistek, who pointed to few signs in climate patterns to come up with a sound forecast in his blog.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for average temperatures this winter in the Northwest.
But the fall has started off with a bang.
Al Williams of Oak Harbor said he and his wife Barbara have witnessed lightning storms like none other since they moved to Whidbey Island in 2000.
He said the top section of a fir tree was struck by lightning near their property in recent days, sending a charred section about 10 to 15 feet down.
“There’s a pretty good chunk on the ground,” Williams said. “I can’t really be sure which storm might’ve done this strike.”
He said September’s lightning storms symbolized the end of summer.
“It ended rather abruptly, didn’t it?”