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Western Washington weather year in review

Eight out of the 12 months were in the top 10 warmest. Ainsley MacDonald, right, and Will Walker, 10, try to leap above incoming waves as Calister MacDonald, left, 3, looks on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, at a beach on the Puget Sound in Mukilteo, Wash. Temperatures are expected to hit near 90 in nearby Seattle and 97 in Portland Tuesday, which is considered a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest in July. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The year 2014 will go down as a wet and record warm year as well as a tragic year. There were 50 weather-related fatalities capped by the 43 involved with the SR-530 slide on March 22. There were also three avalanche and wind-related fatalities each, as well as a rip current fatality. Nineteen people were injured during the year and weather-related damage totals through October were in excess of $64 million.

It was a record warm year with about a week left before the end of it. The average temperature at Sea-Tac Airport was 55.5 degrees, exceeding the previous record of 54.4 degrees in 1995. The average high temperature was 63.1 degrees exceeding the record of 62.5 degrees in 1992. The average low temperature was 47.9 degrees exceeding the record warm low temperature average of 46.7 degrees set in 1995 and 2013.

Through Dec. 22, there have been only 83 days (23 percent) with below normal temperatures. Since July 1, the percentage is even lower with only 27 days below normal (15 percent).

There were plenty of warm nights in Seattle in 2014. Through Dec. 22, there were 176 days with a low temperature of 50 degrees or more. This is a new record and crushes the old record of 157 days set in 1995.
There were 114 days with highs 70 degrees or greater. This is the second most on record surpassed only by 115 days in 1992.

Eight out of the 12 months were in the top 10 warmest. The average temperature in January was 44.3 degrees (10th), April 52 degrees (7th), May 59.1 degrees (5th), July 69.2 degrees (2nd), August 69.1 degrees (3rd), September 64.8 degrees (2nd), October 58 degrees (1st) and as of Dec. 22 – 47.5 degrees (1st). Only February had below normal temperatures.

It was also quite a wet year. Sea-Tac Airport reported 47.21 inches of rain for the year as of Dec. 22. That makes 2014 the eighth wettest year on record. The all-time record is 55.17 inches set in 1950. Another inch would be needed to exceed the seventh ranked 48.27 inches established in 2012.

For only the second time on record, Sea-Tac Airport passed its annual normal total for rainfall in the month of October. The annual normal of 37.49 inches was surpassed on Oct. 30 this year. The only other year was in 1950 when the annual normal was surpassed on Oct. 23.
There were five months that ended up in the top 10 wettest on record: February 6.11 inches (8th), March 9.44 inches (1st), April 4.18 inches (9th), May 3.15 inches (8th) and October 6.75 inches (5th).

It was the wettest Feb. 1 through Oct. 1 on record with 35.17 inches, shattering the old record of 31.11 inches set in 1950.

2014 was also the year of landslides. In addition to the SR-530 slide, other significant events included the Index slide in January that cut off a neighborhood, and from mid-February to early March, there were slides in Maple Valley, Auburn, U.S. 101 near Hoodsport, Mukilteo, Tacoma, Des Moines, Concrete, Sedro Woolley and Snoqualmie.

The year began with the neutral phase of the three El Nino siblings and finished with a weak El Nino. This was the first time there were back-to-back neutral seasons since the winters of 1992-3 and 1993-4.

There were four tornadoes in the state this year. Washington averages between one and two tornadoes per year. The strongest tornado – an EF1 – struck Longview on Oct. 23 with no fatalities but close to $1 million in damage. The other events were a brief weak event in Eatonville on April 27, a brief toughdown on Rattlesnake Mountain northwest of Richland on Aug. 13, and the waterspout off Anderson Island in south Puget Sound on Oct. 11.

Below is a list of the year’s significant weather events and the record temperatures and precipitation established thus far this year:

Tornadoes and waterspouts:

APRIL 27 – Pierce County – A brief EFO tornado touched down in Eatonville.

AUGUST 13 – Benton County – A brief EFO tornado touched down on Rattlesnake Mountain.

OCTOBER 11 – Pierce County – A waterspout was just off Anderson Island for a couple of minutes.

OCTOBER 23 – Cowlitz County – An EF1 tornado moved through a part of Longview with winds up to 110 mph for about 10 minutes causing close to $1 million in damage to buildings along its 1.3 mile path. No injuries or fatalities.

Lightning and thunderstorms:

AUGUST 2 – King County – Lightning hit trees in the Fremond and Green Lake areas of Seattle, knocking out power to about 2,000 customers and sparking a garage fire.

AUGUST 11 – King County – Lightning strikes in the Woodinville and Redmond areas resulted in more that 5,000 customers losing power.


No severe sized hail – 1 inch or greater diameter – was reported during the year, although there were a number of reports of small hail, ice pellets and graupel over the course of the year.

High winds:

JANUARY 10-11 – COAST/NORTH INTERIOR/PUGET SOUND AREA – A series of three wind events produced winds up to 55 mph knocking power out to about 90,000 customers.

FEBRUARY 15-16 – COAST/NORTH INTERIOR – A strong storm produced winds up to 58 mph.

MAY 31 – ISLAND COUNTY – Strong winds up to 35 mph resulted in a 10-foot kayak carrying two men from the southern U.S. to capsize. The two men drowned from hypothermia.

OCTOBER 21 – NORTH COAST AND NORTH INTERIOR – Strong winds up to 58 mph hit this region and resulted in one injury from a large tree branch through the roof of a home.

OCTOBER 25 – PUGET SOUND AREA – Strong winds up to 61 mph resulted in about 150,000 customers without power. The Evergreen Point Floating Bridge closed for a few hours that evening. A sailor died in the South Sound area when his boat capsized. A cyclist was injured by a fallen branch in downtown Seattle. Damages exceed $2 million.

NOVEMBER 6 – NORTH INTERIOR AND PUGET SOUND AREA – Strong winds up to 58 mph produced power outages to about 50,000 customers and a a half million dollars in damages. A tree fell into a vehicle along SR-530 near Oso injuring the motorist.

NOVEMBER 14-16 – PORTIONS OF THE INTERIOR – A strong offshore flow east wind event under clear skies resulted in strong winds with gusts up to 50 mph for a few days with one nigh in the east Puget Sound lowlands…gusts reaching 60 mph. The event resulted in a number of downed trees and power outages to about 150,000 customers, some more than once. Damage totals were not available yet.

DECEMBER 11 – MUCH OF WESTERN WASHINGTON – Strong winds up to 65 mph downed a number of trees and resulted in 350,000 customers without power. A cyclist was injured when he encountered a downed tree on a bike trail. Damage totals were not available yet.

Winter storms:


FEBRUARY 22 – FAR NORTH INTERIOR – Weak Fraser River outflow combined with incoming moisture from a Pacific weather system to produce 2-4 inches of snow in Western Whatcom and San Juan counties.

NOVEMBER 29 – PARTS OF THE INTERIOR OF WESTERN WASHINGTON – A surge of cold air from Western Canada combined with lingering moisture from a Pacific weather system and a Puget Sound convergence zone resulted in trace to 3 inches of snow in the region.


JANUARY 18 – A climber was involved in a cornice failure resulting in a fatality near Lewis Peak along the Mountain Loop Highway.

FEBRUARY 11 – In Osbornes Chute near Stevens Pass, a skier and snowboarded triggered a slide with both being injured.

MARCH 22 – On Granite Mountain near Snoqualmie Pass a skier triggered an avalanche and died.

APRIL 27 – Snoqualmie Mountain near the pass, a skier triggered a slide and was seriously injured.

MAY 14 – On Mt. Shushkan, a skier was caught in a slide and died.

Floods/Heavy Rain/Landslides:

JANUARY 9 – SNOHOMISH COUNTY – A landslide over the only road into a neighborhood near Index left scores of residents stranded without power.

JANUARY 11 – Minor flooding occurred on the Bogachiel, Skokomish and Stillaquamish Rivers following a heavy rain event.

FEBRUARY 17-18 – Heavy rainfall in southwest Washington caused minor flooding on the lower Chehalis, Deschutes, Newaukum, Skokomish, and Skookumchuck Rivers.

FEBRUARY 19 – Heavy rainfall caused a landslide that damaged part of a road near Maple Valley.

MARCH 2-8 – A series of landslides destroyed a home along the West Valley Highway near Pacific. A road was damaged in Index. Other slide locations included Snoqualmie, Thurston County, the West Valley Highway in Auburn, Marine View Drive in Tacoma, on Vashon Island, Mukilteo, Concrete, Sedro Woolley, U.S. 101 near Hoodsport and in Des Moines. Total damage was estimated around $200,000

MARCH 9-10 – A period of heavy rainfall amounts in parts of Western Washington produced moderate flooding on the Snoqualmie River near Carnation and minor flooding on the Cowlitze at Randle, Green at Auburn, Puyallup near Orting, Skokomish, Skykomish, Snohomish, Stillaquamish, and Tolt Rivers.

MARCH 22 – SR-530 NEAR OSO – A massive landslide with a deposit depth of 15 to 75 feet swept across the North Fork Stillaguamish River wiping out a neighborhood and blocking SR-530 for over a mile. The tragic event resulted in 43 fatalities, and 12 injuries after destroying 37 homes. Event damage was estimated around $60 million.

NOVEMBER 25-30 – PARTS OF WESTERN WASHINGTON – Heavy rainfall produced moderate flooding along the Carbon, Nisqually at National, Skagit, Puyallup near Ortin, Skykomish and Snohomish Rivers and minor flooding on the Cowlitz at Randle, Nooksack at Cedarville, Skokomish, Stillaguamish, Snoqualmie and Tolt Rivers.

Marine incidents including coastal flooding/high surf and rip currents:

JULY 27 – CENTRAL COAST – A group of eight people from out of state were caught in a rip current near Ocean Shores. All eventually escaped to shore, but one person who went back in the water to help others was swept out to sea – one fatality.


Even though it was a record warm year, there were no extended heat waves during the year. Western Washington high temperatures climbed into the mid 90s in some locations on July 1 and again in mid August. No significant wildfires occurred this year either. Wildfires were confined to areas east of the Cascade Crest this season.

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