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2016 weather review: Another toasty year but cold enough to keep man from eating a bug

Dec. 8: Seattle's Space Needle shines through the snow. (Photo: Kenny T Aung.)

SEATTLE -- 2016 will go down as among the hottest in Seattle history, but at least it was cold enough that our state's climatologist won't have to eat a bug.

Fresh off the heels of 2015 marking the hottest year since Sea-Tac Airport began keeping records in 1945, 2016 will come in a close second -- saved from taking over the top spot by our chilly end of the year. The average temperature in 2016 came out to 55.1 degrees, just behind 2016's 55.6 degrees. April and November went down as the warmest on record, while October was the wettest on record.

Speaking of wet, Seattle will chalk up its third year in a row and fourth of the past five to be much wetter than average. 2016 will finish just over 45 inches for the year; the average is 37.59.

Perhaps the most significant weather event of the year was a windstorm that struck on March 13. One person died when their vehicle was struck by a falling tree at Seward Park. A toddler in the car survived. As many as 250,000 lost power.

Four small tornadoes were reported in Eastern Washington; none in Western Washington, although there were a couple of funnel clouds spotted in Snohomish County in the spring and three waterspouts were seen off the southwestern Washington coast. But there were no major snow storms, no major flooding events, and just a few significant wind storms. Mostly, 2016 was about trying to break a lot of heat records 2015 had just set.

Let's take a trip down memory lane:

Much like how 2017 looks to begin this year, 2016 began with a few spots of snow. Much like how 2016 ended, the snow didn't amount to much. But with a "Trace" of snow, Seattle was actually ahead of Philadelphia for a time.

Jan 3: Light snow dots the Puget Sound area
Jan 5: Seattle's had more snow this winter than Philadelphia

The year's first wind storm hit on Jan. 28, but mostly pestered the far North Sound, where trees fell into homes in Bellingham.

Jan 28: Potent storm nails Western Wash. with heavy rain, wind, flooding

As we headed into February, so began the first of many stories about how warm it is. Seattle hit 63, but Forks went above 70!

Feb 9: Seattle breaks record high Tuesday; Forks hotter than Miami

Through it all, the rains kept coming -- combined with the soggy end to 2015, it ended up the wettest winter on record, if you count from December 1 though Feb. 29.

Feb. 19: Congratulations Seattle! You've made it through the wettest winter on record!
March 7: Seattle's record wet winter, as spelled out in rainy Emojis

Have you heard? March comes in like a lion. This year, that meant winds nearing 60 mph and even a tree into a school bus. No injuries there but a Poulsbo mother was hospitalized when a tree fell into her home.

March 1: Strong winds slam Puget Sound region as March roars to life

And then it kept roaring.

March 9: 'Twin'sanity -- Mother Nature blasts the region with two storms at nearly the same time
March 10: Power outages, school closures, flooding as March storm rakes Western Wash.
March 12: Wind storm likely to bring scattered power outages Sunday afternoon

Then came the big punch on March 13 with 45-60 mph winds, except gusts over 75 mph on the Mukilteo ferry. Up on the San Juans, it was...Dramamine please!... and directions to the nearest car wash.

Actually, we just found another video taken from the car that gets plastered with the waves. WARNING: Some off color language in there:

March 13: Just how windy was Sunday's windstorm?
March 14: Thousands still without power after Sunday's intense windstorm
March 15: Swirling windstorm brings not one, but TWO rain shadows Sunday

The wind storm ended up just being one of dozens of storms to hit that autumn and winter. How do we know "dozens"? I counted:

March 21: How many storms hit the Pacific Northwest this rainy season? We counted...
March 27: Funnel cloud spotted over Mill Creek

April 1: Seattle breaks all-time 6-month rain record on a sunny day

The wet fall and winter was enough to combat a record El Nino and the ski resorts managed to cobble together somewhat of a normal ski season, except for an early end.

April 26: What El Niño? Stevens Pass sets recent record for skier visits
May 21: Warm spring brings early meltout to Stevens Pass

But we keep coming back to the warmth. As mentioned, April was the warmest on record and it brought with it another early start-- and end to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival:

March 23: Another warm winter has the Skagit Valley tulips blooming early
April 7: Record-smashing heat on tap as Western Washington gets summer preview
April 12: Warm April to bring early end to Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

We should have known it was going to be a hot summer...

April 18: 89 degrees?!? It's never been this hot in April before in Seattle

Then just like the Midwest, the heat ends with thunderstorms:

April 20: Brilliant thunderstorm punctuates end to 4-day heat wave in Puget Sound region

But the records, they kept on a fallin'. May would end up on April's toasty heels as the third warmest:

April 28: How warm has it been? Seattle's April was warmer than a typical May
May 1: Seattle smashes record for hottest April on record
May 13: Cue the fireworks? Seattle May weather more typical of 4th of July
June 2: Another toasty month: May ties for 3rd warmest in Seattle
June 4: Northwest bakes in yet another heat spell

But with the generally clear skies as the warm summer season commenced came some great weather displays! Perhaps none greater than the most intense Northern Lights display in years around Western Washington on Mother's Day:

May 8: Epic Northern Lights show dazzles Puget Sound region
May 31: 'Fire Rainbows' bring colorful cloud display over North Sound

June 8: Photos: Incredible sunset graces Puget Sound region

June 22: Solstice storm starts summer with a bang

June 22: Photos: Atmosphere shows off in amazing ways this past week
July 22: Caught on cam: Lightning strike hits very close to Hansville home

July took a bit of a heat break -- ended up fairly close to normal! (Gasp!)

July 22: Seattle's July weather this year: totally normal -- no, really!
July 22: Washington the only refuge from national heat wave

But then August rekindled the heat with six days over 90 coming in three different stretches, including a 95 degree reading on Aug. 19.

Aug 15: Upcoming hot stretch to clinch Seattle's 4th consecutive warmer-than-normal summer
Aug 19: Western Wash. set to broil in record-smashing heat wave
Aug 19: Seattle sizzles to hottest day of the year so far
Aug 24: Summer's last hurrah? These next 2 hot days could be the last of the heat

Sept. 2 - Seattle 'meteorological' summer finishes up 9th warmest on record
Sept. 22 Heat fans had nearly 10,000 minutes of 80+ degree weather in Seattle this summer

But September was a fairly quick end to the heat; instead prepping us for the stormy season with some interesting Convergence Zones:

Sept. 19 Convergence Zone brings torrential rain, hail, flooded streets to North Sound
Sept. 20 Convergence Zone soaks some spots; leaves others high and (mostly) dry

After such a hot 2/3rds of the year, what would this autumn and winter bring? With La Nina: Hope for some changes to cooler weather! In fact, our state climatologist said he was so sure we'd get a cold spell this winter, he'd eat a bug if it didn't happen:

Sept. 30: Winter forecast: If Seattle doesn't get a cold spell, state climatologist will 'eat a bug'

Spoiler Alert: No bug needs to be eaten.

October is the official start of the stormy season and this year was no different:

Oct. 7: Weather claims two sailboats off coast; Coast Guard rescues crews from ocean
Oct. 7: First wind storm of the season knocks out power to about 7,000

It went from stormy to crazy with a tornado outbreak on the northern Oregon and southwestern Washington coast. The National Weather Service office in Portland issued several tornado warnings for the area with two confirmed touchdowns, including one that caused quite a bit of damage in Manzanita:

Oct. 14: Two tornadoes confirmed on Oregon coast; 128 homes damaged in Manzanita

That was a day before what was expected to be one of the greatest wind storms in several years.

It...um....didn't happen. The storm ended up smaller in size and with a slight track to the west, leaving the area with hardly any gusts and meteorologists completely jaw-dropped on how the storm managed to do so little with every tool in our arsenal pointing to it doing so much. Even in meetings since the storm poring over the data, we still can't believe how little punch the storm had.

Oct. 15: Wind storm spares much of Western Washington
Oct. 15: What the heck went wrong with the storm forecast?!?

But while it wasn't windy, it continued to rain...and rain.. and rain. October ended up with over 10" of rain, making it the wettest October on record and 13th wettest of any month on record.

Oct. 19: Photos: Funnel cloud swirls off northern Washington coast
Oct. 31: Seattle's relentlessly-rainy October sloshes its way into Top 10 territory

We shifted the attention from rain back to warmth in November, hitting 70 degrees on Election Day -- warmer than it was on July 4th this year!

Nov. 8: 70 in Seattle?!? Election day ends up warmer than July 4th as record heat hits Northwest
Nov. 16: 1st half of November goes down as warmest ever in Seattle

Stormy weather returned for Thanksgiving (in other news, the sun rose in the east today) but it wasn't too much of a turkey:

Nov. 23: Winter Storm Warnings in effect for Cascades for twin Thanksgiving storms

December brought Seattle's first measurable snow. The first bout was a light weight on Dec 5:

Dec. 5: First snow of the season dots parts of Puget Sound area
Dec. 5: Alaska Airlines cancels dozens of flights on Tuesday due to winter weather
Dec. 6: Icy temps cause hazardous driving, delay school starts across W. Wash.

But a more widespread snow hit on Dec. 8 -- the most snow the region had seen in a while, but still mostly ended up with about 1-2 inches in the Puget Sound region. Whatcom County and the Eastside foothills were the exceptions where some spots went more toward 6-12 inches.

Dec. 8: Winter is here early! A snowy night graces Puget Sound region
Dec. 9: How much snow fell Thursday night?

Another lightweight snow hit the area just before Christmas, leaving some areas with about an inch or so and others...not so much. Just a tad too warm:

Dec. 23: 'Winter Wonderland' for some; Emerald-colored lawns for others

But as the year drew to a close, all eyes were on what appeared to be the start of another bout of extended cold weather with potential snows as the calendar flipped to 2017. I guess we'll see how that turned out in next year's version of our annual weather recap.

Record Lows: A Thing of the Past?

For the 5th year in a row, Seattle failed to set a new record low. But record highs? No problem. Seattle set 16 new record highs -- on the heels of 19 set last year -- with five more records tied. Five of the six 90+ degree days set record highs, and the 89 on April 19 was the warmest April day on record. Seattle also set three daily rainfall records, including two back-to-back on October 13 (1.75") and Oct. 14 (1.36") and tied the record on July 22.

2016 Year End Statistics for Seattle

Annual Rain: 45.18" (Average 37.49")
Number of days with measurable rain: 172 (Average: 154)
Number of sunny days (0-30% cloud cover): 52 (average: 58)
Number of partly cloudy days (30-70% cover): 173 (average: 81)
Number of overcast days ({>}70% cloud cover): 141 (average: 226)
Number of days 80 degrees or hotter: 38 (Average: 25)
Number of days at 85 or hotter: 18 (Average: 10)
Number of days at 90 or hotter: 7 (Average: 3)

* - Monthly record
** - Monthly record

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