Rain, rain go away

How many different ways can you say it's raining today?

Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Two years ago, I wrote a column about our chance of breaking a record. Here is part of that article.

"Recently I spoke to the information director of the Weather Bureau, Rick Fritsch, also called a meteorological technician. He told me that we've had two long rainy spells this spring and summer, one starting on April 22 lasting 21 days and the other beginning July 30, also for 21 days."

We almost broke the historical spring and summer record of 24 days which started on March 27, 1949.

We would still have a ways to go to capture the best constant downpour which occurred in the fall months of 1999, beginning on September 29, lasting 49 days.

It's time to celebrate. Perhaps the Juneau Chamber of Commerce should organize some type of lottery to guess when the rain will end like the break up of ice on the Tanana River. Such a contest might even be taken over by the city of Juneau to augment sales tax receipts.

It's wondrous, however, to consider how so much of the world is beset by drought and here we have the pleasure of the gently falling rain.

Some people call this condition "inclement." They are only pessimists. The true pessimist is of course someone who follows in the footsteps of Noah, who after 40 days and nights embarked on his ark to escape the great flood. If you see unusual construction activity in the back lots of Juneau, you will know it is time to worry.

The most important section of the newspaper is no longer the sports page or even letters to the editor. Who cares what someone is calling President Bush, when you can immediately turn to the weather page in beautiful blue, red and yellow colors, and read week after week:

"Mostly cloudy chance of showers. ... Cloudy with showers possible. ... More clouds, chance of showers. ... Mostly cloudy with showers likely. ... Cloudy with rain becoming likely."

How many different ways can you say that it's raining today?

Now fast forward to August.

Nikki Becker, the hydro-meteorological technician at the Mendenhall Loop Road Weather Bureau headquarters brought me statistically up to date.

The old records were to be precise July 1946 of 22 days of continuous rain for the summer and for springtime 24 days in 1949. These figures are based on precipitation greater than a trace. A trace is defined as one hundredth of an inch. If you add trace days the record for continuous rainfall is 47 days in the summer of 1945 and 37 days for springtime in 1977.

I felt like we were breaking the record in July it rained so often, but unfortunately, we haven't come close. July 4, l4, l6 and 26 were only trace days, so by Aug. 1, we've reached 30 days, leaving us a ways to go to hit 47.

But don't give up hope.

This was my conclusion to that earlier report.

There's still a chance to break a record for August. The Weather Bureau is going to have a celebration at its headquarters on Mendenhall Loop Road as the records fall. They'd like to invite the whole community of Juneau to come out for a hot dog and a big piece of cake and ice cream.

But they may hold off until day 50 when the sky is forecast to really open up. If we're optimistic enough we may even break that old 49 day record.

All you folks intending to sell your house and move to Arizona, please don't read this story.

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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