Disasters and delights made 2009 notable
A look at Seattle's top 2009 stories.
Seattle Times staff reporter
2009 | A Look Back
Seattle Times photo editors have chosen their favorite images of 2009.
It was a year of extremes.
Massive floods swamped us in January. We cooked in July on our hottest day ever. Fall slapped on a record-breaking week of cold.
Unemployment and foreclosures soared. Businesses contracted but still found ways to produce new products aimed at changing everything from media to flight.
After waiting and waiting, the light-rail system took on passengers and finally reached the airport.
UW softball and crew teams won it all. Sounders fans blew away expectations, making Seattle a soccer town.
The Kid came back, even though he's old now.
Voters shouted for new direction and got it.
A spate of violence magnified the worst of human nature.
Here's a look back at just some of the big stories from the year:
• A perfect storm — heavy rain along with warm temperatures melting a deep snowpack — caused widespread flooding in Western Washington.
State highway crews closed a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 5 near Chehalis. The state's three major east-west routes across the Cascade Mountains were shut by avalanches and the threat of more slides.
The estimated the cost of damage in King County alone was about $28 million.
• An anemic personal-computer market forced Microsoft to begin the year by instituting the first major layoffs of its history.
The company announced 1,400 employees were being let go immediately. The market reacted to the news by plunging Microsoft stock 11.7 percent.
The total layoff months later came to 5,800 workers.
• After a fiery public hearing, the Seattle School Board voted 5-2 to close five schools and move all or part of eight others to save about $3.6 million.
The plan called for the closures of two elementary-school programs, Cooper and T.T. Minor, as well as Meany Middle, Summit K-12 and the African American Academy.
• Amazon.com unveiled the Kindle 2.0 electronic book reader.
The slimmed-down version of the company's initial effort and the related business innovations surrounding it polished the Seattle company's reputation as a pioneer in online commerce.
Sales have been brisk, and rivals have been jumping into the small but growing e-reader market.
• A top Seattle transportation official admitted that "we blew it," during a hearing into the city's poor effort in clearing streets of the massive amounts of snow that fell in December 2008.
A consultant's report, prepared months before the snowstorm, had documented major management problems within the department.
• The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its final print edition.
Hearst Corporation made the move after being unable to find a buyer and weathering another tough year for print media in general.
The P-I, which published for 146 years, continues providing online content but employs only a fraction of its previous staff.
• The Seattle Sounders FC won its inaugural Major League Soccer game 3-0 before 32,523 rabid fans.
All home games were sold out. An all-time MLS record for average match attendance was set. The club made the playoffs. And Qwest Field hosted the MLS title game.
• Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a measure granting domestic partners more than 170 of the benefits and responsibilities given married couples.
Opponents challenged the law, but Washington voters approved it last month.
Gay-rights groups said the law marked the first time a state's voters have approved a gay-equality measure.
• A sellout crowd welcomed back Ken Griffey Jr. during the Mariners' home opener. He responded by stroking a single in his first at-bat for the M's at Safeco since 1999.
Fans were so giddy to have the aging superstar back that they collectively forgave him for forcing a trade to Cincinnati a decade ago.
• A father killed his five children, ages 7 to 16, inside their Graham-area home before killing himself in an Auburn parking lot.
The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said James Harrison, 34, opened fire on his children and then killed himself shortly after learning his wife was leaving him.
• A 66-year-old Sequim woman who suffered debilitating pain because of pancreatic cancer, became the first person in Washington to end her life under the state's new "Death with Dignity" law, approved by voters in 2008.
Linda Fleming died in her apartment with family members, a physician and her pet Chihuahua by her side.
• The death of a Snohomish County man was the first to be linked to the H1N1 "swine" flu virus in Washington and the third in the United States.
State health officials said he also had heart problems. The other two early fatalities also involved people with serious underlying health issues.
• The University of Washington softball team endured a three-week, 6,899-mile trek through Massachusetts, Georgia and Oklahoma to win the NCAA softball tournament.
Pitcher and national player of the year Danielle Lawrie dominated the tournament.
The UW men's crew team also won a national title during the month.
• King County Assessor Scott Noble was sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to vehicular assault.
The car he drove the wrong way down Interstate 5 smashed head-on into a car carrying two women. All were injured in the Jan. 18 wreck. His alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, the State Patrol said.
• July 29 was the hottest day — ever recorded — in Seattle. The temperature of 103 broke the old mark of 100. Kent reached 106.
This came on the heels of a record-tying string of 29 spring days without measurable rain in Seattle.
• After years of fits and starts, Sound Transit finally opened the initial 14-mile, $2.3 billion starter line from Westlake Center to Tukwila.
On Dec. 19, the line stretched two more miles to connect with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
• Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels lost his re-election bid by finishing third in the primary. Challengers Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan both outpolled him and advanced to the November ballot.
Critics said Nickels was hurt by his aggressive style and the city's poor response to the December 2008 snowstorm (which he infamously graded a "B").
• The M's pulled off one of the greatest one-season turnarounds in modern baseball history by winning 24 more games than the year before.
After their 85th win in the season's final game at Safeco Field, players paraded around the field and carried Ken Griffey and Ichiro on their shoulders. The team had been labeled "dysfunctional" just the year before.
• Boeing decided to build a second 787 final-assembly plant in Charleston, S.C., after the state offered grants, tax breaks and lower labor costs.
Despite the decision, Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, reassured: "We remain committed to Puget Sound."
• Police Officer Timothy Brenton, 39, was fatally shot as he sat in a patrol car Halloween night. Officer Britt Sweeney, 33, escaped serious injury in the attack.
As Brenton's memorial service ended a few days later, Seattle police shot and arrested Christopher Monfort. Paralyzed from the waist down, Monfort, 41, is charged with aggravated murder.
• Microsoft launched its much-hyped operating system Windows 7.
The product got high marks for coming out on time, usability and its new features. It also was well-received for not having the glitches that vexed the Vista operating system.
• Mike McGinn edged Joe Mallahan to become Seattle's new mayor.
"We went out and we spoke to people. We went out and we listened to people," said McGinn, a former Sierra Club leader.
Voters also elected Dow Constantine as the new King County executive.
• Four Lakewood police officers were killed in an ambush at a Parkland coffee shop.
Suspect Maurice Clemmons was fatally shot by a Seattle officer two days later.
Clemmons was an ex-convict facing a potential prison term on child-rape and assault charges. Some of his friends and relatives were charged with helping him elude capture.
• An Italian jury found Seattle's Amanda Knox guilty of murder in connection with the 2007 killing of British student Meredith Kercher in a cottage the two shared in Perugia, Italy.
Knox, 22, was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito, her ex-boyfriend, also was convicted and sentenced.
• Boeing's long-delayed 787 Dreamliner took off from Paine Field, flew for three hours and sent company spirits soaring.
The jet, made from carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, promises to provide significant fuel savings. Several more test flights and inspections await.
• David E. Crable was killed by return gunfire after he shot at close range two Pierce County sheriff's deputies who were responding to a domestic-violence dispute. Sgt. Nick Hausner, 43, received serious injuries while Deputy Kent Mundell Jr., 44 and a 10-year veteran of the department, was critically wounded.
Since Oct. 31, five officers have been killed and three wounded in Pierce County and Seattle.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.