The Pacific Northwest is known for its mild climate and abundant rain, but not this year.
Record-breaking temperatures in the 90s, and even triple digits, resulted in an early start to the swim season. Pool professionals credit this weather change at least in part for a boost in business.
“Records are being broken every month,” said Steve Kristiansen, retail manager of KrisCo Aquatech Pools in Woodinville, Wash., part of the Puget Sound area
This trend has worked in conjunction with the continuing economic recovery to fuel repairs and renovations, builders said.
“We’re the busiest we’ve been in a long time,” Kristiansen said. “We’re up in construction and hiring more construction workers.”
The early start to the season benefitted service business as well. Professionals got wind that this would be an exceptional year early on.
“Normally, we open pools in April at best, and do the bulk of them in May,” said Mark Henderson, owner of Pool World, a builder/retailer with three stores in Spokane, Wash., and one in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. “This year, we started opening in March! It adds another 30 to 60 days to the season.”
Because of this, he reported a 20 percent rise in sales, particularly of sanitizers and balancing products.
The heat continued deep into the season, which further enhanced retail activity. “Typically, July to August is our summer here,” said Brian Quint, president of Aquaquip, a Seattle-based retailer/pool installer. “Historically, June is rainy, but this year it was sunny. So we got the extra 30 days of summer on the front end.”
Quint reports that sales of traditional items and supplies, such as maintenance products and solar covers, have climbed at his nine locations.
“It’s a gift, a significant bump in core retail product sales,” he said. “In many pool categories, we saw 15-, 20-, 25 percent sales increases this summer.”
He also pointed to a resurgence in sales of aboveground pools, which he said is approaching pre-2007 levels, which he credits to the local economy and weather.
These accounts dovetail with PoolCorp’s experience this year in its Pacific Division. Besides increased sales of products such as equipment, pool finishes, tiles and chemicals, the megadistributor also has seen growth in commercial building.
“Typically, we see very short markets in the Pacific Northwest, but this year, the season was expanded,” said Donna Williams, general manager of sales/marketing and product management at the Covington, La.-based distributor.
Weather experts agree that temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have shattered records all summer. Cliff Mass, atmospheric sciences professor at University of Washington, called the region’s experience this year “very, very unusual.” But while some have assumed it must be part of global warming, Mass said it is not. Instead, he believes it’s primarily the result of natural variability — in other words, it’s just the way the jet stream, pressure and other natural weather conditions are playing out in the region.
But this weather change also has brought regional concerns. The snowpack in eastern Washington, which supplies reservoirs and streams in summertime, is at uncharacteristic lows due to exceptionally warm temperatures last winter, according to Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization.
Then there were wildfires raging in Washington and Oregon. Pool professionals are particularly mindful of the suffering these blazes have caused, as are their customers.
“It can be 85 degrees out, but [the swimming experience] is tainted,” Henderson said. “People don’t feel like sitting out by the pool while others’ homes are in danger.”
The big question now is how long the searing temperatures will continue. Atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass doesn’t see a cool-down any time soon for the Pacific Northwest. As for 2016, he said, the UW long-term computer models suggest a warm winter, courtesy of El Nino, and another very warm summer for the region.
* Seattle Space Needle photo by Carissa Rogers/flickr