It’s happened to me five times over the past six days. I casually mentioned to someone that I am New To Seattle, having moved here last summer from the Los Angeles area. What happened next each time: (1) a startled look of astonishment on the face of that someone, followed by (2) comments along the lines of “Gee, why did you move here?” or “Wouldn’t mind a little L.A. sun right now.”
I should add that these encounters all took place in climatologically unpleasant out-of-doors venues: falling precipitation under sunless skies amid gusty winds and temperatures in the mid-40s. (Several occurred around soccer fields where I spend a portion of my weekends refereeing youth matches.) Yes, the legendarily long wet cool winter of darkness is starting to descend upon Seattle, and the locals seem none too happy about it.
To me, the comments reflect the conflicted relationship that Seattleites have with their meteorological environment. They’re proud of the glorious summers, the clean air, and even the vigorous change of seasons–while obsessing about the inevitable result of that change. Back in July, my first full month here, I wrote in this space how struck I was by the number of people who warned me about what to expect when the days get shorter. Some people–bizarrely–even apologized to me, as if, I wrote then, “they worked for God or the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.”
That P.R. effort now has petered out. Here in the continental U.S.’s northernmost major city, no one apologizes to me about the weather anymore as they heed advertising pitches to rush out and stockpile Vitamin D. After all, on cloudy days it’s nearly dark now by 4 p.m.
A few people have tried gamely to educate me about something called the Puget Sound Convergence Zone. It is my take-away from these earnest tutorials that the Zone is a phenomenon caused when storms blowing off the Pacific Ocean are split by the Olympic Mountains to the west of Seattle and then reunite in an especially rain-causing way along the eastern shore of Puget Sound.
As luck would have it, this happens to be the location of Seattle. Now I’m sort of guessing here. That might be the life-giving reason why the area historically was full of Indian tribes before land-grabbing gringo settlers in 1853 named their new city after a local chief and then got rid of his followers.
But wait! I also have been advised solemnly there’s an official southern limit to the Zone below which falling wet stuff decreases significantly. That limit even has a name: NE 65th Street in Seattle. That’s an east-west artery (except for the giant traffic blockage known by the unappealing name of Green Lake) held by some to divide Seattle from North Seattle.
Such Rand McNally street map precision certainly is unusual in weather forecasting elsewhere across the country. In my short time as a Seattleite I haven’t seen a lot of evidence supporting it here. I live about 35 blocks south of NE 65th Street. This afternoon, I got soaked and chilled taking my two-and-a-half mile daily constitutional around the neighborhood in rainy 42-degree weather. As I type this, it’s still pretty stormy outside.
And over the past weekend I was a good 10 miles south of NE 65th Street when I refereed a soccer match in falling sleet. Maybe the Zone runs a little closer to L.A.