If you dream of a mild Pacific Northwest with warm winters and cool summers, modest rainfall, spectacular scenery with eagles and whales, this could be the place you’ve been trying to get to! Only 65-minutes from Metropolitan Seattle but light years away via a 15-minute ferry trip, you’ll find this “secret place”; a relaxed countryside of friendly neighbors, fir forests, and pastures, snow-capped mountains, east and west, wind-swept bluffs and driftwood-covered beaches. Add pristine air quality, unpolluted water, low crime, good schools, and no state income tax, but great health care delivery, and you would be on Whidbey Island!
There are places in the world so exceptional they don’t require superlatives. Whidbey Island is such a place. Try “life in the rain shadow”.
The interesting ways many people come to live on Whidbey Island! A few decades ago, a successful antique dealer in Los Angeles, was trapped in 12-24 hour work days. In a conversation with a friend, she reflected on returning to a life in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, because of the sea and the trees.
She explained her reasoning to her friend. She needed to be surrounded by year-round green trees. She wanted clean beaches and wonderful water views. She loved the commuting by ferry to the heart of Sydney. A friend then told her about the Pacific Northwest and beautiful Whidbey Island with its easy ferry commute to the mainland and Seattle. Her friend raved about the tall evergreens everywhere and the incredible waters surrounding Whidbey where every seed is telling a story. The rest is history.
Life in the Rain Shadow
Mark Twain once said something like, “Everybody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” It seems there’s always some curiosity about the weather and the climate, and in Puget Sound… the RAIN! Rain it does! This doesn’t prevent, though, many sports enthusiasts to sign up for the annual Whidbey Maraton. The 2018 run is on the weekend of April 21 and 22.
However, Whidbey Island has two special conditions that make the climate very unlike most of Puget Sound. First, the island, though big, is narrow – meaning that the stable temperature of waters surrounding the island creates a “coastal effect”. As a result of the island temperatures closely follow water temperatures. Thus, it is quite “warm” on Whidbey during winter months, and quite “cool” in summer months relative to other islands and the mainland. It’s why some nearby mainlanders refer to Whidbey as the “Banana Belt”.
Whidbey Island is blessed with some pretty nice weather because the narrow island’s climate is influenced by the relatively warm Puget Sound waters. This phenomenon provides cool, but seldom very cold temperatures in winter and lower rainfall than other areas of the Sound – or cities of the East Coast and West Coast! In summer these same “cool” waters reduce the temperatures 4-5 degrees compared to Seattle-Everett.
Lower rainfall is occurring because of the so-called “rain shadow” Olympic Mountains effect because the mountains are situated in the path of prevailing wind streams. Normal southwesterly winds force wet sea air from the Pacific up and over the Olympics, creating rainforests on the “west” side of the mountains, with up to 200-inches per year. The rather dry air masses then move “downwind” directly toward Whidbey Island. Local organizations are working hard to protect and support Whidbey’s shorelines.
As a result, Whidbey is protected from moist clouds and thereby receives much less rainfall than most other areas of Western Washington. Seattle averages about 38-40 inches per year, and Everett (the near mainland city), averages 38-inches. Whidbey has between 15 and 25 inches of rainfall per year. This is the place to enjoy the treasures of the tide flats.