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From 108 to 17 degrees: Puget Sound region wraps up wild year of record weather

Dec 27, 2021, 9:28 AM | Updated: Dec 31, 2021, 7:47 am

Seahawks snow 2021...

Seattle Seahawks fans braving the snow. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

This month has been the culmination of a series of record weather systems across the Puget Sound region throughout the year, ranging from blazing summer heat to frigid winter temperatures.

Puget Sound region’s temperatures dip to lowest in a decade

Extreme weather events pretty much became the norm for all of Western Washington starting in February, and from there, it never really let up.

February snow

On Feb. 13, 8.9 inches of snow fell in the Seattle area. That was the snowiest day the city had seen in any month in 52 years, and the most it had seen on a February day in nearly a century. Combined between Feb. 12 and Feb. 13, that was also the most snow the Seattle area had seen over a two-day period in 49 years.

While it didn’t exceed the total snowfall of 2019’s weeks-long event, that was more than any single day of accumulation Seattle had two years ago. In the larger context of February snow, the Seattle area stood at over 12 total inches for the month in 2021, the fifth most in February on record (2019 ranked as the second snowiest for that month).

April heat and June storms

Western Washington is no stranger to spring showers, but what it got instead this year was a surprise to many. Prior to 2021, Seattle had never seen seven straight days of 70-degree weather in the month of April. That came to an end this year, when the city averaged nearly 76 degrees between April 15 and April 21, cresting the 70-degree mark on each of those days.

Then, in early June, widespread thunderstorms drenched the Puget Sound region, with 0.68 inches falling on a single day at Sea-Tac (where the NWS measures rainfall in the Seattle area). That topped a 75-year-old record for June 13.

Historic heat wave

June may have started with rainy weather, but scorching temperatures won out as the headline of the month when it was all said and done.

That saw an historic heat wave shatter records across Western Washington, with most major areas experiencing their hottest ever days during that period. That list included:

  • Seattle (Sea-Tac) 108 degrees, previously 104 on June 27, 2021
  • Bellingham 99 degrees, previously 96 on July 29, 2009
  • NWS Seattle 107 degrees, previously 105 on July 29, 2009
  • Olympia 110 degrees, previously 105 on June 27, 2021
  • Quillayute 110, previously 99 on Aug. 9, 1981

Elsewhere, Washington reached its highest ever recorded temperature in the state’s history during that period as well, topping out at 118 degrees at two National Weather Service Stations near Forks and Silver Creek.

July wildfires and a near-record dry streak

July was an alarming month for all of Washington, with an unprecedented drought and windy weather fueling some of the worst wildfires the state has ever seen.

By the end of July, Washington had already hit an all-time record for the number of fires for a single season, nearly doubling the 10-year average for that period of time. That also led to communities in Okanogan County experiencing the worst air quality they’ve ever seen in 15 years of available data. In Winthrop, residents sandwiched between a pair of large fires to its eastern and western edges were experiencing the worst measured air quality on the entire planet.

That trend persisted into August, when the Seattle area went 51 straight days without any measurable rainfall, falling just short of the 55-day record set in 2017. A second heat wave arrived in that same month, with temperatures at the time ranging into the low 90s alongside poor air quality brought on by wildfire smoke.

Rain and cold temperatures arrive

The Puget Sound region then shifted into extreme wet weather conditions, with 0.81 inches of rain falling on Sept. 18. That broke an 11-year-old record for the day. Over that weekend, Seattle experienced 86% of its total average September rainfall in just three days.

The following month, Seattle experienced the coldest average temperature the city had ever seen in the first two weeks of October at 43 degrees for a single day. The previous record was 43.5 degrees (high of 54 degrees and low of 33 degrees) set on Oct. 14, 1899. Not long after that, temperatures plummeted to 36 degrees, which was also the first new record low in October in nearly two decades.

November flooding

In mid-November, torrential rain submerged several areas across Skagit and Whatcom counties. In the town of Sumas, Washington, it’s estimated that 75% of homes suffered water damage from flooding, with many parts of the region finding themselves almost completely underwater.

By the end of the month, Sea-Tac Airport — where the NWS measures rain for the Seattle area — had officially recorded over 19 inches of rain between September and November, over half of which fell in the latter month. That number represented an all-time record for rainfall in the region over that three-month period (known more formally as meteorological fall).

Seattle also experienced record high temperatures amid that rain, hitting 59 degrees on Nov. 28, tying the record for that date set in 1999. The following day, a new record for the minimum temperature in Seattle on Nov. 29 was also set at 52 degrees, besting the previous 50-degree record for that date from 1995.

In Forks, rainfall over that 90-day time frame exceeded what Las Vegas has gotten over the last 13 years combined.

Snow, frigid temperatures in December

Not to be outdone, December came with its own set of weather-related records as well, with the Seattle Seahawks playing just their third ever home game in the snow the day after Christmas.

In the wake of that snow, temperatures in the Seattle area dipped to 17 degrees. Not only did that represent the coldest temperature the city has seen in over a decade, but it was also the biggest difference between the warmest (108 degrees in June) and coldest (17 degrees in December) temperatures in a single calendar year.

The Seattle area snuck in one final record-setting performance to end the year as well, when Sea-Tac Airport experienced measurable snow for five straight days leading into New Year’s Eve. That marked the longest such streak in over half a century, and the seventh longest since records were first kept in 1945.

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From 108 to 17 degrees: Puget Sound region wraps up wild year of record weather