People in southwestern Montana are getting a little testy about the weather this spring. It rained almost four inches during the month of May, which involved a number of days with constant drizzle and no sunshine, and many of the folks don't like it. Stand in line in the grocery store and you can hear people grumbling about the rain and snow. Even my wife Laurie has complained about the weather.
"I am sick of it," she says. "I want sunshine."
Well, I long for sunshine too, but it can rain day and night for all I care. I just don't want it to carry over to next week when I will be fishing in Saskatchewan. However, I have to ask Laurie, "How on earth did you survive living nine years in Juneau, Alaska without an apparent whimper?"
"That's different. I was younger then." I have to smile at that.
"Liquid sunshine," the lovers of Southeast Alaska used to call the rain. (Did they really believe that or had the rain soaked into their brains?) "When the sun comes out it makes it all worthwhile" -- that was another of their irritating favorites.
Most people regard Seattle as a rainy place, but with 30-35 inches of annual rainfall, it doesn't begin to approach Southeast Alaska as a rain capital. Juneau, for example, averages 94 inches a year, which is more than one-quarter inch per day! (During the interminable three years and three months I lived in Juneau, I discovered this piece of trivia -- of all the days of the year only July 12 has less than a 50 percent chance of rainfall; October 30 has a 95 percent chance of rain, October 31 is 98 percent!) During my first autumn in Juneau it rained day and night for a month! Our house was located about a mile from a weather station north of Juneau, and the last year I lived there it recorded 122 inches of rainfall! Now that's something to get disgruntled about!
Other locations in Southeast Alaska are similarly rainy. Ketchikan receives 154 inches a year, and the most sodden place of all -- Little Port Walter -- gets 227 inches a year! One has to remember that in a place like Juneau, where you get only 30-40 days of sunshine a year, when you do get a few days break in the weather, the law of averages kicks back into play, and you can expect rain night and day for weeks on end.
I have read about places in Micronesia and even high on a mountain in Hawaii where it rains 300 to 400 inches per year. I cannot imagine it. I do remember one time 40 years ago while on a reconnaissance patrol in Vietnam with the 1st Marine Division when a typhoon struck Southeast Asia. I heard later that it rained 12 inches in a 24-hour period, but can't confirm that. I remember huddling beneath an enormous tree in the jungle, cutting a chink in the bark and turning it up. Water running down the tree trunk made a little fountain, and members of our patrol were able to fill our canteens from it.
If I lived in a place like Yuma, Ariz., where the sun shines almost all the time I suspect I'd form a similar aversion to sunshine. That is pure speculation on my part, but I can state with certainty that I never was able to adapt to the rain forest.
I have spent most of my life in North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana -- states that enjoy four seasons, and rain is usually refreshing, unlike the somber gloom, the grim, gray skies of Southeast Alaska. Give me normality any time where I can relish the refreshing smell of grasslands and sagebrush, feel the wind blow while waiting for it to rain.