Rockin’ a Hard Place: How wet and muddy was it last month? Let’s talk it over

Let us all now take a moment, throw back our hoodies, heave a deep sigh of relief and kiss soggy January goodbye. As Cliff Mass, Western Washington’s weather guru extraordinaire, wrote recently in his blog: “If only it were a bit warmer, we might have gators around here. After incessant rain, grass is like mush, water is ponding and accumulating everywhere, landslides have started, the rivers are flooding, and the aroma of wetness is everywhere.”

On our dear Rock, we unfortunately hear weather forecasts mostly intended for the “greater Seattle area.” (Dear God, please make us not part of that!) Our airwaves, cable lines and wi-fi streams have saturated us with chatter about near record January wetness in greater Seattle. Can you believe it, the dumbfounded TV weather folk proclaim! Seattle had rain on 28 of 31 days in January, tying the records set in 2006 and 1953.

All that Seattle precipitation talk made me worried that my friends in the Emerald City might suffer a misshapen Patagonia rain jacket while strolling on 4th Avenue. Or spring a leak in their Eddie Bauer waterproof sombrero at Pike’s Place. Or maybe even be driven crazy enough to do something none of us ever do – open an umbrella beside the Space Needle.

Of course, on Whidbey our response to all that rain has been much less panicky and appropriately expressed in muted Rock-speak. Lot a rain recently. Guess so. More than normal? Maybe but doubt it. Last year was really wet, too. But it is pretty muddy. A neighbor got stuck. And my car is filthy.

Soggy January is always the height of our dark, dank and dreary time on the Rock. We are always forced to stay indoors this time of year, which we hate, but we endure it knowing it’ll end, hopefully, by late March.

This January, however, we were cooped up a lot more than usual. We were forced to wear rain jackets, which we hate. We had to while away the hours reading about or listening to the collapse of our democracy, something we used to be able to avoid. We ran our windshield wipers at full or even extra-fast speed several times last month, which most of us have rarely done, instead of the more normal one or two clicks on the intermediate scale to take care of a typical Rock drizzle. I sat fascinated one morning as my wipers on full speed kept time to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” on the radio.

Because all our forecasts during this rainy January were designed for greater Seattle, it has given us Rock dwellers time to do something we actually love to do – argue. Who got the most rain here – North, Central or South Whidbey? Whose snow stuck around the longest? Who had the toughest time getting their cars out of the driveway, and whose driveway was muddiest? Whose power was out the longest? Who bagged work and got away it? Ah yes, really good stuff to argue about – almost as good as quarreling over whether it’s better to pay for the ferry or drive around.

Granted, there are an increasing number of weather geeks on the Rock who keep rain gages and post forecasts and warnings on social media. But their forecasts and warnings are often so at odds with each other that they just provide fuel to heat up the arguments.

When I heard about Seattle’s record-tying 28 rainy days last month, I wondered how that compared with our Rock. So I consulted, a respected weather web site that tracks daily temperature, precipitation, humidity and more for just about every spot in the country – including North, Central and South Whidbey.

And when I added it up, here’s what I found. North Whidbey had measurable rain on 27 days in January. Central Whidbey, home of the vaunted Olympics Rain Shadow, had just 22 days. And the winner by far was soggy South Whidbey, with 30 rainy days; only Sunday Jan. 19 was dry on the South End. Congratulations to all of you in Clinton, Langley and Freeland. You beat greater Seattle – go shake a wet umbrella in the direction of America!

This shut-in time of year, especially when it never stops raining as happened last month, does have a few benefits. No matter how cold, wet and muddy it gets, we still have to stick our noses out occasionally and go buy food. In Central Whidbey, where I live, that usually means a trip to Prairie Center Red Apple, an amazing place that’s been around for going on a century. When it’s wet outside, I notice people lingering a lot longer at the market; there is much less grabbing a six pack and running out quickly as there is in summer.

People meet neighbors at the market and conversations go on for a while. Sometimes the aisles get a bit crowded with people chatting and catching up while appearing to look for soup or cereal. I think of the Prairie Center market as our Central Whidbey clubhouse; it’s where we gather, grab and gab.

I haven’t asked market owner Ken Hofkamp if last month set any records because of all the wetness, but it sure seemed like it to me. However, I’ll be glad to meet you there if you’d like to argue that point.

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