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The Seattle Times | Pacific Northwest
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Sunday Punch Steve Johnston

Pour It On

It's plain the rain is mainly for the brave

I'm one of those unusual people. I like it when it rains. When it doesn't rain for a long time, like two weeks or so, I start missing it and I begin getting nervous. That run of dry days in July got me worrying.

Then I read a story with good news. It said the weather folks were predicting the next 100 years were going to be exceptionally wet. I had to share the good news with the Truly Unpleasant Mrs. Johnston. "Dear," I called out to the kitchen where Mrs. Johnston was busy avoiding me, "it says here that we are going to get more rain than usual. And not just next year. It says it's for the next 100 years! That gives me something to look forward to."

I couldn't quite make out what Mrs. Johnston replied because she was banging the pots and pans so loudly, but I believe she was not sharing my excitement at the prospect of a century of rain.

The problem with your attitude toward rain is that it depends on where you were raised. Mrs. Johnston was raised near San Francisco, where they don't get much rain. They have their weather issues, like fog, but they don't have much rain. So when it rains for two weeks straight, Mrs. Johnston tends to get a little testy.

But I grew up under Northwest skies. For an idea how deep my rain roots run, until I was 7 years old I lived on the edge of Olympic National Park. One of the draws to the park is the Olympic Rain Forest. To get the title of "rain forest," a place has to get at least 6 feet of rain a year. That's a measly 72 inches. In the Olympic Rain Forest, the average rainfall is 144 inches a year. That's 12 feet of water falling on you in as many months.

When it really pours in the Olympic Rain Forest, you are talking about 14 to 16 feet of rain. If it rained every day of the year in the rain forest, it would be a half-inch or so every day. But it didn't rain every day in my birth place. It came as a mist and moved on to drizzle, broken up by cloud bursts so heavy it was like being hit with a fire hose, followed by a steady downpour and wrapping up the rest of the week with a forecast of cloudy days mixed with showers.

When my family moved to Everett, it was a shock to my system. Not only did I move from having no neighbors to living in an actual city, I also went to a place where it didn't rain all that much, maybe just five months out of the year. It hardly got your hair wet.

If you grow up in the Rain Culture, then you become a Rain Warrior. If you move here, then you get to be a Rain Weenie. A Rain Warrior doesn't own an umbrella. If someone gives the Warrior an umbrella, it is kept near the front door to be lent to the Rain Weenie when it starts to drizzle.

A Rain Warrior will wear a hat (maybe a ball cap with a local team name on it) and a jacket that is waterproof and has a hood on it. But nothing else to signal the Warrior needs any sort of shield to face the deluge. If you look in a Rain Warrior's front-room closet, you will find different coats with hoods, different colors, different weights, different styles. But all good to wear in the rain.

A Rain Weenie will go outside in the rain — but only if dressed to face a Nor'wester (that's another rain storm). The Weenie will carry an umbrella. It may not be used but it will be carried, just in case.

There is hope for the Rain Weenie. I've been married to one for almost 30 years — and last month she left her umbrella in the hall closet. Maybe this month she will leave her rubber boots next to her umbrella.

Steve Johnston is a retired Seattle Times staff reporter. Heather McKinnon is a Times news staff artist.

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