Portland, my fair city, defines itself in a number of ways. Portland, it’s like Gore won, the Bush administration never happened, cars don’t really exist.
You can put a bird on something and call it art.
I love my city very much. In fact, I am thinking about buying a piece of it — if that’s not love, I don’t know what is! But one thing that people don’t really expect is our weather.
In many cities, weather is somewhat of a background character. DC is a place of politics and lobbyists, free museums and cherry blossoms. Also it’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Portland, though, is a wet, rainy city that has great beer, great coffee, amazing restaurants, and all kinds of fun outdoor activities.
Order matters. You have to deal with rain when you move to Portland (and the Pacific Northwest in general). We aren’t the wettest city ever in the history of cities — in fact, Jeffrey discovered the other night at happy hour that Boston, MA gets more rain than we do. If you add in snow, Boston has double the precipitation of Portland.
We just do rain differently.
Could you get completely soaking wet in the rain in Portland? Sure, but it’s not very common. We don’t do flash floods or have situations where it just pours and pours for days.
What we have is gray. From November to April, Portland is gray. You can go weeks without seeing blue. The rain starts in October, and continues through fall, winter, and spring. The sky doesn’t brighten, not fully. Ours is a temperate climate, meaning we all freak out when it snows — it is very dangerous to be on the roads when it snows.
Part of that is because it doesn’t get cold enough for a “good” snow. So what we see is snowfall when it’s right at freezing outside, followed by enough warming to make the roads wet, followed by an overnight freeze. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s black ice. Nobody should be driving in that. The other part is that we get a lot of midwest transplants — nicest people on earth, and folks that know how to drive in the snow. They tend to equate being adept at driving in sub-zero temperatures as proof of their aptitude of driving on ice, and they are proven wrong, winter after winter.
Snow is rare, and is celebrated.
Rain is our default, especially for half of fall, all of winter, and more of spring than anyone ever remembers. My first year of college, the Portland area set a record for most consecutive days of rain. That total was 41. That was a bleak winter. People were recommending sunlamps and tanning beds. We dreamed of Hawaii.
Weather is such a huge part of our lives. You won’t see people anywhere else in America celebrating the first sunny day in March with as much enthusiasm as Pacific Northwesterners. That’s probably a good thing, since we embarrass ourselves with socks and sandals (and fleece jackets and shorts). I had a substitute teacher in elementary school in Olympia who spent one day in tears. She was from San Diego. It was November. She asked us as third graders whether this was a normal thing.
I bet she moved back to San Diego.
There’s even a subset of depression that is unique to our lives — Seasonal Affected Disorder, or SAD. It’s a disorder caused by not getting enough sunshine. It makes us sad and lethargic. It makes us stay inside and drink beer. It makes us bored and stir crazy.
I’m not trying to scare anyone off, but Portland weather can take some getting used to. I grew up in the Northwest, and still, every spring, I find myself aching for a day where I can go eat on a patio.
In conclusion, it doesn’t rain as much here as it does in other cities. But when the rain comes, it settles in and makes itself comfortable.
So if you want to move here, and I’m looking at you, Suba, my advice is to come in the winter and rent.