Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rain, rain...

So, one of the first words that pop into peoples' heads when you say "Seattle", along with "coffee" and "airplanes" and "software" and "online shopping" is "rain."

Tell them that Noo Yawk city actually gets more rain per annum and they'll accuse you of lying, but it's true: Seattle may have more rainy days per year than most other big cities, but it's usually either a steady drizzle or on-and-off showers, not heavy, steady rain.  When it comes to amount of annual rainfall, Seattle is solidly in the middle of the pack.

The winter just ended was fairly mild, even for here, let alone compared to the rest of the country; very little snow in the lowlands, but it rained a lot.  (Still is, we woke up this morning to rainfall that would have done credit to a tropical monsoon, albeit it didn't last as long.)  Lots of snow in the mountains, though, which is good even for those of us who don't like strapping boards to our feet to attempt to break our necks in the cold, as most of the municipal water supplies around here are fed by mountain snowmelt.

Plus, we don't usually mind rain so much, as it keeps the  area nice and green, and tends to keep the air relatively clear.  (With that huge mountain range to the east, Seattle would otherwise have an air pollution problem to rival that of LA, Birkenstock-wearing tree huggers or no.)

As Mrs. Drang noted in her post TOO MUCH RAIN!!! from yesterday, however, one can have too much of a good thing.

Seattle smashes record for all-time wettest March | Weather Blog |  KOMO News

I've noted elsewhere, in other posts, that Western Washington is rather challenged, geographically (and geologically) when it comes to places to put a major metropolitan area. Mountains, lakes, sound and straits, and what (relatively) dry land there is was temperate rain forest a century and a half ago.  For a long time after that, much of the cleared land, and especially what didn't need clearing because it was river bottom, was agricultural, so flooding didn't matter, and may have been good for the crops.

When we were house hunting, I rejected many houses and home sights without even entering the property because they were too close to a slope, a hill, or a river.  Realtors and builders tried to tell me "Oh, no, sir, this house is yards and yards from the river, no problem at all!" and then not 6 months later, sure enough, there the development would be on the news, complete with home owners complaining because they didn't have flood insurance.

In a few cases I had to look locations up online to see how stable they might be.  I suppose it made my own realtor's job easier, saved him the trouble of actually making the drive.

(OTOH, some of the websites are less than useful.  FEMA was telling me I lived in a flood zone even though we lived on top of a ridge miles from the nearest river.  Turns out they have a different criteria than simply "Will I wake up one morning to find carp in my front yard?")

And, with the way the local economy has boomed over the last 40 years or so (you hear about the "booms", never the "busts", even though I retired from the Army at the beginning of one of the latter) much land has been cleared, and often filled in, to build affordable housing.  (Not to mention unaffordable housing.  Some of those MacMansions...!)

And then... 530 Slide News & Resources | Snohomish County, WA - Official Website

(Last weekend's mudslide in Oso, Snohomish County, WA, is known officially as the "Highway 530 Slide", for the highway it cut.)(Google news search for highway 530 slide. As usual, of course, many of the hits there are simply the same story being picked up by other news outlets. Items bylined KIRO, KOMO, KCPQ or Q13, KING or KING5, or -- of course -- Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer, Everett, Arlington or Snohomish County, will be local.)

17 dead.  90 "missing and presumed dead", and 35 just plain missing.  The debris wall was one and a half miles wide and between 10 and 20 feet deep.  (On Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy I saw houses with high water marks at the nine foot level, halfway up the second floor...)

And, apparently, some folks don't perform due diligence.  While people keep looking at aerial photographs of the area of the Oso landslide, and an Army Corps of Engineers report has surfaced predicting disaster, survivors keep saying that no one told them there was any danger. Interactive: Before and after the 530 mudslide | Local News | The Seattle Times

And, of course, the finger pointing begins.  "State allowed logging on plateau"!  "Why weren't they told?"  "Why were they allowed to build there?!" Some of these are valid criticisms.  Some may be based on hindsight.  And some are just looking for someone to blame, because no one wants to say "Holy crap, who knew?"

Someone must have known, someone had to know, and they must be punished!

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