The mysterious rain of Orcas Island

In Eastsound last week there were more than two inches of rain recorded at several sites.

Rainfall is to be expected in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the kind of rain that visited islanders last week that has local weather experts saying, “wow.”

On Tuesday, Sept 24 at about 2 a.m. Marilyn and Don Myers were awoken as the rain violently pounded with unbelievable strength on their roof.

Self-described as a weather geek she was eager to see exactly how much rain was falling.

“Our rain gauge actually fell over,” said Marlyn. “That has never happened before.”

They recorded an inch and half of rain in just an hour and a half at their property on Olga Road near the Lambiel Museum. Marlyn estimates the rain occurred from about 2 to 3:30 a.m.

Even more amazing is that in Eastsound there were more than two inches of rain recorded at several sites. The Templin Center businesses were flooded. On Terrell Beach road there were descriptions of two inches of hail.

But in other areas of the island people were strangely unaware of the torrent of rain. Residents of the upper Highlands neighborhood said they slept through the night without noticing anything odd. Where a resident on the lower part of the Highlands neighborhood said he had not heard that much rain since his days living in Texas. On nearby Mt. Constitution, Michel Vekved of Friends of Moran, reported less than a quarter of an inch of rain. In Olga, weather expert John Willis said he only had a quarter of an inch of rain.

“He couldn’t believe there was so much rain in Eastsound,” said Marilyn.

On Killebrew Lake only a little over a half of an inch of rain was recorded. South of West Sound weather recorders found only a little over a quarter of an inch of rain, which was the amount also reported for Waldron and San Juan Island.

On the southend of Lopez there was less than a tenth of an inch of rain.

According to weather records kept by the Willis family the last time that much rain was reported on Orcas was for the entire day not just an hour and that was in 1985 when the island had 2.32 inches.

Willis can’t recall in all his years of collecting weather data any time that rain dumped on the island like  last Tuesday.

“The rain cell didn’t move, it came from the southeast and just sat over us,” said Marlyn.

She added that the rainshadow only works when rain is coming from the southwest causing the rain to fall on the other side of the Olympic Mountains. Typically the rainshadow helps islanders stay drier because the  Olympic Mountains act as a wall that protects the northeastern Olympic Peninsula and San Juan Islands from the bulk of the rain that moves into the Pacific Northwest. The fact that this recent rain came more from the southeast helped it creep in.

Marlyn said there was one more interesting phenomenon that night.

“One loud crack of thunder was reported at Rosario,” said Marlyn, who lives near that area. “We didn’t hear it, but it may have been because it was raining so hard we couldn’t hear it.”

There are some things in weather, she said, that you’ll just never find the answer to.