Thursday 27 June 2019

   We had a storm last night. Well, “storm” may be too strong a term. What we had was more like a momentary clash of two heavenly titans battling over us for supremacy of the air. Whatever, it was impressive. The rain poured, the winds swirled, and the thunder crashed, and a half-hour later it was all over. The gain: a half-inch of water in the rain gauge. The loss: just about every blossom in my rose garden was stripped and gathered into the mini-maelstrom. With multi-colored rose petals scattered up and down our street, it looked like the aftermath of a romantic June wedding ceremony.

   We seldom get weather occurrences like last night’s. In fact, it’s pretty unusual for us to get a half-inch of rain any day of the year. Wait, you say; you live in Portland, Oregon, where it rains all the time. Well, it does and it doesn’t. In the Lower 48, Portland ranks third among big cities in the number of days that it rains in a year. In contrast, in total annual precipitation, Portland doesn’t even crack the Top 15. Portland’s 43 inches (and I don’t think we’ve actually had that high an “average” in many years) is about the same as Boston (44) and St. Louis (41), somewhat less than Providence (47), trailing farther behind Atlanta and New York City (50), and almost out of sight behind Miami’s whopping 62 inches. Those comparisons make us seem almost arid.  

   How is it possible to have so many rainy days, but (relatively) so little rain? It’s as I said, above: we don’t get many big storms. The bulk of Portland rain comes between September and May, and usually arrives as wide stretches of gray clouds off the Pacific. It rains and rains and rains for days – or so it seems - but when you check your rain gauge, you find only a tenth of an inch has fallen.  It’s those deceptive Portland gray skies.

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