A while back, I actually researched the lowest temperature ever recorded in Seattle’s history. It is….zero degrees. Everyone reading this in the northwest is saying, “Holy cow, that is COLD!” while all the Midwesterners will note that zero degrees won’t even cancel school in the Heartland. It’s all relative to what you grew up with.
For instance, I grew up in Seattle, so rain is just a fact of life. Just like I always wondered why you would pay extra for air conditioning in your car, I thought that all winters were cloudy and rainy (or snowy). When I lived in the Midwest, I understand why you would want A.C., and I saw that Midwest winters are not nearly as stormy. Sure, there was snow then, but it seemed relatively calm to me. What did bother me is when it was 15 degrees with no snow on the ground. That’s just cold for the sake of cold.
While Midwest winters are cold with a handful of snow or ice storms, Seattle experiences a constant barrage of Pacific storms from November to March. Each storm will blow moisture into the region, bringing snow to the mountains and rain to the lowlands. Since these storms are out of the southwest, it is rarely cold enough to snow in the lowlands. We get snow maybe three or four times a year, but it doesn’t last long. If you want snow, you’ll get plenty in the Cascades. Paradise at Mount Rainier and the Mount Baker Ski area go back and forth for "most snowfall in a single season" in the entire world!
But please don’t think that it rains all the time. For instance, right now, at 12:27 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2008, it is not raining…very hard. Granted, earlier it did rain, but then it turned to showers. The showers later turned to rain and the wind picked up. Then the rain stopped and the sun broke out. For those outside the Midwest, we actually have a name for this. A “sun break” is characterized by a break in the clouds that exposes the sun for a brief moment (see photo). Common reactions by locals include shielding one’s eyes, calling relatives to tell them to get outside quick, and searching for sun glasses that were lost or sat upon months ago. Sun breaks are typically followed by rain or showers. Right now, it is sprinkling.
I encourage you all to come visit us here during any season. Don’t be afraid of winter; we’ll loan you a rain jacket, because umbrellas are for tourists!