Ketchikan precipitation nears record

City is 9.6 inches away from high of 202.55 inches set in 1949

Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2005

KETCHIKAN - Ketchikan is famous for liquid sunshine and rubber boots, but this year's rainfall is inching toward the record books.

As of early Tuesday, the Flight Service Station at Ketchikan International Airport had measured 192.95 inches of precipitation for the year. The record - at least as far as most residents are concerned - is 202.55 inches, set in 1949. Rain is in the forecast through New Year's Day, Sunday.

Kimberly Vaughan, a hydrometeorological technician with the National Weather Service in Juneau, said it has been wet across the region this year.

"Sitka had mudslides with heavy rain, and so did Haines," she said. "It was just a very wet winter and temperatures stayed slightly above normal. It wasn't coming down as snow."

Juneau, too, has had its share of landslides and flooding this season. In Ketchikan, a mudslide blocked a portion of the Brown Mountain Road in late September.

Ketchikan had 39 consecutive days of rain from Oct. 20 to Nov. 27, which wasn't a record. The town also had 39 consecutive days of rain in 1999 and 1977. The record was 101 consecutive days of rain, set in 1953, Vaughan said.

November was the wettest month of 2005, with 27.95 inches of precipitation, followed by October with 25.72 inches and January with 25.06 inches, according to the Flight Service Station.

The National Weather Service's Web site lists the annual record for the highest precipitation in Ketchikan at 190.46 inches, set in 1917, and the average annual total at 154.6 inches. The year 1949 doesn't appear on the record list. The Liquid Rain Gauge at the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau and most people in town use the 202-inch record.

The record for the most precipitation that fell in one day in Ketchikan was 8.71 inches, set on Oct. 11, 1977.

John Markle, a weather spotter who lives in Saxman, said this year's annual rainfall should be "pretty close" to the record.

"It's been pretty heavy this last month or so," he said. "I've seen where you get a half inch of rain in an hour. You just sit back and watch the old rain gauge click away."

John Kanarr, who tracks the weather on North Tongass, said it's easy to forget about the constant rain until there's a big storm.

"After a while, when you go to work and come home, you don't pay attention to the rain, unless it's a whistler, like Thanksgiving," he said. "You don't keep track of the number of days it's been going on."

Kanarr has been paying attention to the lack of snow on area mountaintops - snowpack is important for hydroelectric generation and for spawning fish, he said. But he wouldn't mind if Ketchikan hit the 200-inch mark this year.

"Some people don't like the rain, and hey, they can move to Florida and put up with the hurricanes and the typhoons or to California and put up with the smog," he said.

Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division Manager Jay Hansen said area snowpack has come and gone, though there's been a "phenomenal" amount of rain.

"Provided the rain comes spread out, it doesn't matter if it's rain or snow," he said.

As of Tuesday morning, precipitation at Swan Lake was 187.42 inches, compared to a 14-year average of 153.58 inches. At Ketchikan Lakes, Ketchikan Public Utilities had measured 170.81 inches, compared to a 14-year average of 148.31. At Silvis Lake, the total was 254.8 inches, compared to a 14-year average of 216.55 inches.

"Right now the lakes are all full, and over the last three or four years, if we're full at the first of year we've made it through OK," Hansen said. "If it got cold and stayed through March, we might not be OK."

Record or no, Kanarr sees a plus side to all the rain.

"You never have to shovel rain. That's what I tell people," he said.



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