"THE EMERALD CITY - My Home Town" Seattle by Johnscarroll

Seattle Travel Guide: 3,196 reviews and 7,923 photos

The Seattle Lifestyle

I love Seattle! It isn't because this is the most sophisticated town. We aren't the most metropolitan or diverse. I love Seattle because of the attitude of its people. It is an island of practical liberal thinking.

Seattle is the urban and cultural heart of the Puget Sound basin. Major cities in the metropolitan area include Seattle (575,000) Tacoma (200,000) Bellevue (110,000) Everett (92,000) Federal Way (75,000) and Kent (50,000). The Seattle/Tacoma metro area is home to more than 3.25 millinon people.

Corporations that are headquartered in the Seattle area include Boeing (Commercial Aircraft division), Safeco Insurance, Nordstrom, Microsoft, Starbucks, Costco, Weyerhauser, Shurgard, Washington Mutual, Real Networks, Amazon, REI, and Eddie Bauer, North Face, and Cutter and Buck clothing. Other corporations with a major presence include Qwest, Cingular, Amgen, Adobe, and Intel.

It's a young western town known for the superb natual setting. A vacation in Seattle must be a vacation that includes outdoor adventures.

The Geography

Seattle is in the heart of Puget Sound. The area was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago during a couple different ice ages - most dramatically during the Pleistocene age.

Large glaciers moved down from the north, blanketing the area under more than a thousand feet of ice. This sheet of ice was so deep it would have burried all of our current skyscrapers with plenty of room to spare. The glacial lobe reached as far south as what is now the city of Olympia.

The weight of these slow moving ice fields actually depressed and scraped out the earth below, like a giant shovel. The result was the creation of valleys, troughs, basins and ridgelines of hills all oriented in a generaly north/south direction.

As the climate warmed and the glaciers retreated for the last time, the dammed up ocean thundered into the empty space in a series of gigantic floods. The deepest depressions became Puget Sound which is 200-300 feet deep in some areas. Other areas were slowly filled with fresh water. These places became Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish which can be 100-200 feet deep.

Today, the soils in the city are called "glacial till." The are soft, sandy and rocky - the remnants of all that earth moving. Large amounts of rain filter through that rocky soil, sometimes returning to the surface as seasonal springs.

The glaciers are still here too. Washington State is home to more glaciers than any other state except Alaska. Mt. Rainier alone accounts for a huge percentage of the nation's glacial ice. Glaciers are also present on Mt. Adams, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Baker - all of which happen to be volcanoes as well. Thus, Washington is often referred to as the land of "fire and ice."

Sadly, these glaciers are all shrinking and receding due to the current global warming trend.

The Weather

Seattle is thought to be rainy - actually that's not the whole story. What we are is cloudy. Many cities get much more rain than we do (including Boston, New York, Miami, and Atlanta). Seattle is the cloudiest major city in the lower 48 Portland , Oregon gets only 4 more days of sun than Seattle. The cloudy days can lead to some depression if you stay indoors. However, I have found that if you force yourself to get outside, exercise, and stay busy - the cloudiness isn't so bad.

Our climate is classified as "marine." That means our proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the cool Alaska current has the greatest impact on our weather. However, the actual city proper of Seattle is in somewhat of a rain shadow.

We are located due east of the Olympic Moutnains. Pacific storm systems flow in a northeasterly direction. Storms are first drained by the height of the Olympics, leaving the lowland area of Seattle with less rainfall. Then, the foothills of the Cascade Mountains again drain additional moisture out of the clouds. Thus, Seattle can get sprinkles while suburbs to the north, south, east and west are receiving a deluge.

However, our rainfall does not last all year. The wet season runs from October to June, while the summer months of July, August and September are very dry, sunny, and of a moderate temperature. The mercury rarely rises above 90.

One of the strangest phenomenon of Seattle weather is what I call Early Spring. It's quite common in February for the rains to suddenly stop for an extended period - as much as 2-3 weeks. The sun comes out and temperatures warm up into the 60s and even sometimes the 70s. Seattleites squint and suddenly scramble to find their sunglasses from the previous summer. But, by March the clouds return and last through the end of June (with occasional break of 2-3 days. For me, this is the most stressful weather. I'm ready for sun, the spring flowers are blooming, and yet the clouds are sticking around and it's still cool enough to require a jacket or sweater.

During the coldest periods (December - January) Seattle will sometimes see a few inches of snow. But it is far more ordinary for Seattle to be damp while higher suburban locations are shivering under a snowy blanket.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Spectacular Natural Setting
  • Cons:Horrible Traffic and political stagnation
  • In a nutshell:Nature and Culture
  • Intro Updated Mar 26, 2006
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Reviews (33)

Comments (4)

  • amandajayne81's Profile Photo
    Jul 14, 2008 at 12:53 AM

    Looks like a great place. You have some fabulous pictures as well. We are hoping to visit in late December.

  • Sunshine64's Profile Photo
    Mar 15, 2006 at 7:18 PM

    What a thorough and informative page! I especially like the low-down on parking.

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Aug 20, 2005 at 2:35 PM

    Been on many a Boeing nice to know where they are build..........good page loved the gardens

  • aussiedoug's Profile Photo
    Jan 18, 2005 at 4:19 AM

    Gr8 tips on 1 of my top 5 U.S. cities (Chicago, S.F., N.Y. & Boston are the other 4). Interesting to see you are a teacher. I used to be a Primary (Elementary to you guys) School Principal. Teachers are the salt of the earth!

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