Office of the Washington State Climatologist

Washington 2006 Top 10 Weather & Climate Events

For additional information and pictures of each of these events, download the slide show (4.4mb PDF file) that was presented at the 2007 Northwest Weather Workshop.

10. November Windstorms (Spokane)

According to the Spokane NWS office, November was the windiest November since 1990. The strongest windstorm that month occurred on the 13th causing widespread damage from fallen trees. Significant wind gusts greater than 60 mph were recorded in several locations, Spokane 59 mph, 62 in Western Whitman County, and 71 in Moscow ID.

9. July Severe Storms E. WA

Between July 1-15, 48 short fused warnings were issued which was more than the totals of 2005, 2004, and 2003. The most significant thunderstorms occurred between July 4-6, when a series of thunderstorms rolled through E. WA producing hail greater than 1″ in diameter that resulted in considerable agricultural damage, estimated in the millions. There were also several flash floods and mudslides associated with the storms that washed out roads in the Lake Chelan and Methow Valley areas. During the July 5th storm, radar estimated precipitation of 2.5-3 inches in 2 hours was observed.

8. Heat Wave July 21-24

During this period in western Washington, temperatures were above 95 in many locations with some areas reaching the triple digits. Record high temperatures were recorded in most areas around central Puget Sound and all time record high minimum temperatures of near 70F were recorded in a few areas. Also, record high temperatures in eastern Washington reached the triple digits in many areas, 112F Priest Rapids Dam, 111F Sunnyside, 102F Spokane.

7. November Snow/Arctic Blast

On November 28, cold air along with the help of the Puget Sound Convergence zone helped to produce snow from Everett south through Tacoma during the evening commute. Throughout the Seattle metro area wide spread traffic jams and delays lasting hours were a result of abandoned cars, numerous accidents, and people stuck in the snow. “Thundersnow” (lightning and snow) was also reported south and east of Seattle and it was reported that two lightning strikes hit separate airplanes flying. Quickly following the snow, cold air behind an arctic front moved south, bringing temperatures down into the low to mid 20’s. The cold air kept the high temperatures below freezing and produced record low temperatures around the region in the nights following. Seattle recorded a record low of 18 breaking the previous record of 22 in 1975. Also, Mt. Baker broke its record for the most snow in a storm cycle with 98″ over a 5-day period.

6. Heat Wave E. WA May 15-18

The development of a strong ridge of high pressure over the Western U.S. brought record high temperatures, up to 26 degrees warmer than normal, of which some records were broken by nearly 10 degrees. The heat wave led to the rapid melting of mountain snow, causing rivers to spill their banks, flooding areas nearby. Salmon Creek around Conconully reached its highest level since 1997.

5. February Windstorm

On February 3-4, strong winds battered the Puget Sound region with gusts in excess of 65 mph in some locations causing over 200,000 customers to lose electrical power, the closure of the Hood Canal Bridge and, for the first time in 7-years, the closure of the SR-520 Evergreen Point Floating bridge. Total damage was estimated at $7.5 million.

4. June Thunderstorms in E. WA

With the help of some thunderstorms, Spokane had its 6th wettest June out of 126 years with 3.09″, all of which fell in the first 14 days. The most significant storms occurred on the 13th with many reports of hail around 1″ in diameter and heavy rain which created floods and mudslides the washed out a road in the Spokane area. The hail caused over $2.5 million in agricultural damage.

3. January Rain & Floods

January 2006 was one of the warmest and wettest months. Out 112 years, it was the 3rd warmest and 2nd wettest January’s on record. Storm after storm continued to bring rain to the state from mid December through much of January. Seattle, recorded 27 consecutive days of measurable rain from Dec. 19 – Jan. 15, making it the second longest streak behind 33 days set in 1953. Other areas had longer streaks, including Olympia which broke its previous record with 35 consecutive days of rain. It was also wet in Eastern Washington where Spokane broke its wettest 30-day period of precipitation with 6.58″ from Dec. 19th – January 17th. Governor Gregorie originally declared a state of emergency for 12 counties and later declared all 39 counties federal disasters areas due to widespread flooding and mudslides.

2. November Floods & Rain

A slow moving pineapple express storm in the beginning of the month brought heavy rains which caused 12 rivers to reach all-time record high flood crests, causing major floods in 11 counties in western Washington. Despite one of the driest summers, the lack of summer rainfall was quickly made up with above normal precipitation statewide. By the end of the month, Seattle (as recorded from Sea-Tac airport), Hoquiam, Stampede Pass recorded all-time record monthly precipitation totals. To put things in perspective, Seattle and Olympia had almost as much rain in the month of November as some of the wettest places on the coast average for November. Seattle also recorded a seasonal high of 18.61″ for Autumn (Sept. – Nov.) breaking the old high of 17.08″ set in 1955. All the rain caused extensive damage to Mt. Rainier National Park as rivers re-rerouted themselves. Main access roads, along with the Sunshine Point Campground, were washed out and numerous areas of the park received major damage. Widespread flooding prompted the governor to declare 11 counties federal disaster areas.

1. December Windstorm (The Hanukkah Eve Wind Storm of 2006)

The strongest windstorm to hit the Northwest since the Inauguration Day storm of 1993. A record pressure gradient of 22.3mb from Portland to Bellingham helped winds reach 60-80 mph along the coast, 40-70 mph for the western Washington Interior, and 70-113 mph in the cascades. Chinook pass recorded the highest wind gust of 113mph. There was widespread damage from downed trees, close to 1.5 million electrical customers lost power forcing electrical companies to bring additional support from states as far as Missouri. Several areas were with out power for over a week. A flash flood in Seattle was also associated with the storm which killed a woman who became trapped in her basement as water rushed into the room and jammed the door shut. A total of 15 fatalities were reported 8 of which were due to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators. The governor declared a state of emergency for 17 counties in western Washington. While western Washington received all of the attention, even eastern Washington was affected by the storm. Gusts greater than 50 mph were observed in many locations including, 56 mph in Spokane, 81 mph southwest of Moses Lake, and 88 near Moscow, ID.

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