Seattle Weather, Seattle
This tip is really aimed at the entire northwest, but I have stuck it in the Seattle section since it is convenient, and since most people visiting the northwest seem to make Seattle part of their travel plans.
It is extremely difficult to tell people what weather to expect in the Pacific Northwest:
1. The weather changes very quickly and is especially unreliable in the northwest.
2. The weather changes quite a lot depending on where you happen to be. Please look at the first photo. You will see that the weather is fine where I happen to be standing, which is close to Olympia, Washington. However, just on the other side of the peninsula, there is a huge storm which stayed there most of the day. Seattle and Tacoma probably had no idea that the sun was out just on the other side of the water.
3. The weather changes quite a lot depending on your elevation. Again, look at the main photo for this tip. On that particular day, if you happened to be on a tall hill you might avoid some of the clouds and all of the rain completely. At lower elevations, you would be soaked. In the second photo, note that lower elevations have no snow, while just a few hundred feet up the hill there is fairly heavy snow coverage.
Therefore, recommendations on what to expect for weather and temperatures depends a great deal on what you plan to do and where you plan to do it. Here are some basics:
1. No matter what you are doing or when you visit, plan to bring clothes that can be layered so that you can adjust your clothing to fit the very changeable weather you will experience here, and so that you can adjust your clothing to match the places that you visit. For example, attending a game at CenturyLink Field you will have a cold wind blowing at you, usually even in the middle of August, due to the elevation of the seats and the location of the arena. Further inland on the same day may require clothes more suitable for very hot weather as those locations are protected from the cold wind.
2. Away from the Pacific coast (ie, Aberdeen, Ocean Shores, Long Beach, etc.), generally expect reasonably warm weather in the summer months. In the eastern parts of Oregon and Washington, expect these summer temperatures to be quite hot. If you plan to be on the water at any time of year you will want to bring at the very least a light jacket or similar, because if you get out on the water there will be a cold wind blowing. This includes any of the ferry trips or other boat trips. The temperature drops quite a bit once you get away from land. Every once in a while Seattle can get very hot, but it is unusual. Usually, it isn't extremely hot. There are a few parks along Lake Washington where people swim in the summer, so there are cases where it gets hot enough for that.
3. Along the coast, expect the temperatures even in the summer months to be fairly cool, if not cold. Seattle itself is fairly far from the ocean and thus it can sometimes get hot there, but the coast itself (ie, Aberdeen or Long Beach, Washington or Newport or Astoria, Oregon) is very rarely truly warm. Even in summer it isn't unusual on the coast to need warm clothes, and swimming in the ocean along the coast is extremely rare, though once every several years it does get warm enough to do this.
4. Weather changes very fast depending on the wind direction. For example, Victoria, Seattle and Vancouver can be protected from storms from the ocean by the Olympic Mountains. The direction the wind is blowing determines what areas are protected from the mountains by the rain or other weather. If the wind changes direction, the area that is protected will change. This means fast and unpredictable changes in weather.
5. Every few years there is a significant ice or snow storm that brings the northwest to a halt. This is because the temperature cold enough to freeze the water, but it isn't cold enough to stay frozen. This means the ice buildup is bad enough that very little is able to move.
6. When you askfor a weather prediction, the default location is usually the nearest airport. In Seattle, this airport is SeaTac, which is on a high hill south two cities south of Seattle. In other words, the weather there usually isn't quite the same as actual Seattle weather. The link below is for downtown Seattle.
They say it rains a lot in Seattle! That's so true! We got used to it already except that our drivers don't. So be careful driving!
So, when you come to Seattle, choose the right season then you don't have to bring an umbrella. The best time to come to Seattle is the month of July, August and September. It is bright and sunny but, sometimes, it still rains!
The malls here provide umbrellas especially when you are shopping at the university village. Those yellow umbrellas, however, needed to be returned at any store. Those umbrellas are only used to cover you when you shop from one store to another store. They are not meant to be brought home!
While many people on this website say that Seattlites will complain of the non-existant constant rain. It does rain here. Frequently. While Seattle does not actually get as much rain as Portland per year, it does drizzle here from about October-April/May. As I write this it is summer and it is as cloudy and rainy as it was in the fall. So if a seattlite complains about the rain it is not false advertising, it is a statement of fact. But do not bring an umbrella if you want to look like a local. Hoods work just fine.
If you want to avoid constant rain, I do not recommend visiting in February. Unless you want to view the architecture at University of Washington while the cherry blossoms are blooming in early April, do not visit until the weather breaks in May. In my opinion, May is the most beautiful month because everything is fresh and green. The summer months can be swelteringly hot and humid. I recommend layers because the weather can change in an instant. In summer you might be comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt during the day, but bring warm clothes for evening or you might be miserable! As for umbrellas, it's a completely normal experience to see hundreds of students carrying umbrellas at University of Washington. (All the university district shops sell cheap ones.) Perhaps it is because we could stash them in backpacks, or because we would rather not sit through class soaking wet, but it was not considered unusual or embarassing at all. However it was equally not embarassingly to look like a drowned rat if you did not have one. You simply get used to having frizzy hair and damp clothing. The general custom is to carry an umbrella if it is expected to rain heavily, but it is generally considered inconvenient and pointless to carry one "just in case". If you find an umbrella cumbersome or embarassing, consider investing in a hat or hooded jacket instead.
Most of the US is HOT in summer. It was such a PLEASURE to visit Seattle in summer. Many days were overcast and misty - HEAVEN. Overcast days can be great for photos, are definitely cool, and places that are crowded on a sunny day are virtually vacant on an overcast one. During our stay, we never needed an umbrella - a good, lightweight rainjacket was sufficient. Sunny days were warm, but not hot. Shorts and T-shirts weather.
Apparently in Seattle, they're so used to the rain that when it's a light shower, no one uses umbrellas... at least that's what it says in several travel guides for the city. Someone using an umbrella in a shower is most likely labelled a tourist by locals. That's true for any Southern Californian, we don't get much rain so even a hint of rain brings out umbrellas.
Of course, whatever you are comfortable with is what you should go with. If you don't like being exposed to the rain in even light rain, then don't. Who cares really what someone feels, as long as you are comfortable.
Sure it rains in Pacific Northwest, but over the years I have come to the conclusion that local residents play it up when you ask about it, so that it sounds like the sun never shines.
I suspect it is because the Pacific NorthWest and Seattle especially have become so crowded and bogged down with traffic, locals will do anything to discourage any more people from moving there..
My hat is off to them (fibbing Seattle locals), and I hope the truth never gets out.
Want to blend in like a local? Well, unless you're all dressed up for something special, you'll do best to leave your umbrella at home.
We find it too cumbersome to carry an umbrella everywhere and if we were to pull it out everytime we end up walking through the rain, they would have some kind of study that says "The Average Washintonian Spends 3 Years of his Life Openning Umbrellas" I don't want to spend 3 years openning my umbrella, so although I have one in my truck, I have never openned it.
The key to life here is have a low maintanence hairstyle and wardrobe. Suede and silk should not be in your packing list if you're coming in the rainy season (Nov-Apr)
We can always spot a tourist in the rain. ; )
Be relaxed and just enjoy yourself.
If driving don't honk(it's obnoxious)
Learn to not mind the clouds(late Oct.-May you are guaranteed to see a lot of them,though 2-3 days of the week are usually crystal clear and you can see mountains in all directions)
The summer months are on average clear and mild,in the upper 70's.
The Seattle is a city and does have crime,it's not a place where you ever really feel unsafe(most areas you could wander the streets in the middle of the night and feel at ease).
Make sure to get out of the city and enjoy the mountains&lakes(you can get to lakes in under 10 minutes from downtown/lake washington&green lake/ and it is takes just less than an hour to get out to the cascades.
It did rain on me one day, and for "truth in advertising" purposes I think I need to put up a typical rainy Seattle photo.
I took this on Alaskan Way outside Ivars as it drizzled in the morning.