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Originally published Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:34 AM

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Washington dry spell ending, rain on the way

Washington residents can say so long to those clear, dry summer days that lingered into fall. Here comes the rain.

Associated Press

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SEATTLE —

Washington residents can say so long to those clear, dry summer days that lingered into fall. Here comes the rain.

A series of Pacific systems will start moving through the state Friday, bringing the most rain since spring, the National Weather Service said.

The shift to the cool, showery weather pattern for which Seattle is famous is a little overdue.

"It's a pretty dramatic change in the weather, considering the really unusual spell of dry weather and sunshine," meteorologist Doug McDonnal said.

The first splash in the state's face won't be too heavy, but it's a start.

"That's going to open the door to a succession of fronts that will affect the area through the weekend, probably into early next week," McDonnal said.

Weekend rain will likely be heaviest in the Olympics and North Cascades, with 2 to 4 inches. Amounts in the Seattle area are likely to range from one-half to 2 inches.

Friday's rain is expected to close the record book on one of the driest stretches in state history.

Thursday marked the 81st day with precipitation of no more than .03 inch at Sea-Tac Airport. The previous record was 75 dry days in 1922, said meteorologist Johnny Burg.

"And we're pretty certain something is going to fall out of the sky tomorrow," he said.

Seattle had a stretch of 48 days with no precipitation at all that ended on Sept. 9, second to the record 51 rainless in Seattle days set in 1951.

Spokane is one of several Inland Northwest cities with their driest stretch on record from August through early October. Only .13 inch has been recorded at Spokane International Airport, breaking the record of .18 inch for that period, set in 1991, the Weather Service office in Spokane said.

Wenatchee has had only a trace of rain, tying the parched 1974 record. Pullman also had a trace, breaking the .18 inch mark set in 1987.

The rain showers will be especially welcome in the parts of Eastern Washington where wildfires have been burning for more than a month and continue to smolder.

"I think everybody's relieved we're going to see a change here and forecast conditions are going to be less volatile and less of a threat," said state Emergency Management spokesman Rob Harper.

It will take time and more rain or snow to finally extinguish five still-smoldering wildfires, said Bryan Flint, communications director for the state Department of Natural Resources.

"If we receive the rains that are predicted it will be very helpful toward bringing our fire season to a close," he said. The season is typically over by the end of September but this year has been worse than normal and more costly than normal, he said.

The rains are expected to return on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the most destructive storm to hit the Northwest. The Columbus Day storm of Oct. 12, 1962, brought winds of more than 100 mph, toppling timber, power lines and some buildings. It killed 46 people and injured hundreds.

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