Rain’s a Comin!

I’ve said it many times in the past, you just NEVER know when or where you will get your inspiration for a blog post.  Sometimes its a conversation, sometimes its a special request from someone important, and sometimes it comes from Facebook.

I have a cousin somewhere back east, he is the exact opposite of me as far as politics go (and I gotta tell ya, I am pretty open-minded, you gotta work HARD to disagree with everything I believe.)  But I figure I am required to keep a certain amount of distant relatives on the friend list, so I keep him. (As annoying as he can be)

If I hadn’t I wouldn’t be thinking back to my high school days…

Today he posted this picture of Mt Ranier (I’d give credit to whoever took it if I had a clue)


These clouds are a common site for us around here.  Nope, sorry, they don’t flying saucers are landing.  Or aliens live at the mountain.  (Though one of the first UFO sightings did occur around our mountain).  These are lenticular clouds which form when the winds swirl on top of the mountain.  Climbers know it is a  BAD day to summit when they see these.

They mean something else to us here in the state as well.  It will most likely rain in Western Washington 24 – 48 hours after these appear.  Is this an urban legend?  Read on!

I learned this way back in my Junior year of high school, in my Outdoor Education class.  Yep, I can hear it now, your WHAT??

OK, admittedly this was in the dark ages, 1981, but my school, recognizing that people in the Northwest enjoyed getting out in nature had some classes to reflect that.  One was swimming.  No one could graduate until they proved they could swim 100 yards.  With all our lakes, rivers, and Puget Sound we are a huge boat community.  They wanted us to be as safe as possible.  (To this day I bet I can shuck my jeans while in the water and turn them into a functional life vest!)

The other class was taught by Jim Ericksen, Outdoor Education.  We learned a things that came back to me 20 years later when I first started hiking and climbing.

My first trip
My first trip

We learned how to layer clothes, deal with hypothermia, what clothes to wear (Cotton KILLS!) how to make fire starters and how to start a fire with one match. No lie, we had a test, and if you got the fire to started WITHOUT a fire starter of any kind, with one match you got an A.  2 matches a B, etc.  It was the ONLY time I didn’t get an A in the class (I got a B.)  From that day on though, when camping, I would try it from time to time.  Takes a while but I was pretty good.  We learned how to pack a back pack and the 10 essentials.  All things that came in handy later.

The ‘chapter’ I most remember and have used since the day it happened is forecasting weather.

Now I have NO idea why the things I will tell you here work.  Nor do I know if they work anywhere but here.  But I will tell you, after 30 years of trial and error (OK almost 35 years) they work almost every time.  In fact, I have seen the indicators be right and the weathermen wrong!

The lenticular is the first.  Invariably, if the cone is covered by the cloud, it will rain in the next two days.  I remember one Seafair Weekend(A big event in August here with Blue Angels and Hydroplane races).  The weather dudes were calling for sun and warm.  I looked at the mountain and the cloud was HUGE.  I told people, “Its gonna rain…”  I was right.  Very rarely does the cloud lie.

Editors note:  NO it does not always rain in Seattle.  In fact, from mid-July to mid September, we are historically one of the driest places in the US.

The next is the halo around the moon.  If you look up and see a ring around the moon at night, rains a comin.  The brighter the halo, the more it will rain.  There have been nights I have seen this, and double checked the cars to make sure the windows were up (even though old man radio (traffic and weather every ten minutes on the fours)) said it would be dry.  Sure enough, it poured over night.

Finally, the reverse, will it be a nice day?  If there is a heavy dew or even a frost in the winter on the car, it will be nice!  Same deal, I have woken up to go on a long ride, or a hike, and I see the cars are covered with condensation or frost.  I’ve left the rain gear at home, even when the ‘experts’ say its going to rain.  This one has never let me down!  Conversely, if there has been dew or frost regularly, and suddenly there is a day the car is dry as a tater chip, you might want to grab the gortex.

It’s funny, High School was not a big deal to me.  I went, I got good grades and I graduated.  College did a lot more of making me what I am today.  But until today, I hadn’t thought about this class , and how much I learned and usedvfor years.  Too bad kids today don’t get the same opportunities.

So try the halo and condensation thing at home and see if it works.  Since most of you don’t have a close by Mt Rainier, I don’t think you can use the lenticular, but if you ever visit Seattle, you will be ready!



2 thoughts on “Rain’s a Comin!

  1. I’m suspecting that you and I might have some favorite books in common–“Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills” and Cliff Mass’s “The Weather of the Pacific Northwest.” It’s fun to read the sky, eh? 🙂

    1. I would say that you are correct I have both those! And it amazes me how many people never look up. Shoot just look toward the west, if you see big clouds it’s probably gonna rain, shining mountains mean nice….

      But then, as we know, some people can be annoying

Leave a Reply