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16 Facts about Seattle, Washington

Updated on April 21, 2014
The Space Needle, Seattle
The Space Needle, Seattle | Source

Seattle is a city located in western Washington and the seat of King county. An important seaport and port of entry, sometimes called the "Gateway to the Orient" or the "Gateway to Alaska," It is situated between the east shore of Puget Sound and a freshwater lake (Lake Washington). The city is about 680 air miles (1,100 km) north of San Francisco, Calif., and some 175 miles (280 km) south of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

1. Seattle offers a beautiful prospect. It is built on a series of hills, some of which rise to heights of over 500 feet (150 meters) and all of which command views of the bays and lakes that surround the community. Snowcapped peaks of the Olympic Range are to be seen to the west, while Mt. Rainier raises its symmetrical, ice-encrusted volcanic cone in the southeast. Other peaks of the Cascade Range are visible to the east and northeast.

Downtown Seattle
Downtown Seattle | Source

2. Seattle's geographical location favored its growth as a trade and transportation hub and, eventually, as a manufacturing center. It possesses outstanding educational and cultural facilities, chief among which is the University of Washington, founded in 1861, only ten years after the area was settled.

3. The city covers a land area of approximately 90 square miles (233 sq km). Lake Washington forms the eastern boundary, and two other lakes -Union, largely surrounded by industrial plants, and Green, bordered by parks- are within the city limits. The geography of the downtown area has been reshaped by regrading projects, a seawall, and the construction of an artificial island, Harbor Island, located at the mouth of the Duwamish Waterway.

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4. The eastward drift of weather from the Pacific Ocean gives Seattle a mild but moist climate. In winter, prevailing winds blow from the warmer latitudes to the southwest. In summer, cool air moves down from the Gulf of Alaska. The average maximum daily temperature in July is 75° F (24° C), and the normal January minimum is 36° F (2° C). The average annual precipitation has been about 32 inches (810 mm), less than that in many U.S. cities, although frequent overcast days give the city the reputation of being rainy. Of the total annual rainfall, 75% is recorded from October through March. Average snowfall is less than 9 inches (230 mm) per year.

5. Although dominated to a degree by a major aerospace industry, Seattle's economy is sustained by a diversity of other manufacturing activities and by the trade passing through its excellent port facilities. The city's geographical situation makes it a center of road, rail, and air traffic. There are a number of Fortune 500 companies that maintain their headquarters in Seattle.

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6. The Great Circle route for shipping between Seattle and the Far East is 1,000 miles (1,600 km) shorter than the southerly route from California by way of Hawaii. Ships outbound from Seattle sail 125 miles (200 km) through Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to reach the open Pacific. Seattle is the principal port for shipments to Alaska, and carries on extensive trade with ports on the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast by way of the Panama Canal.

7. The city's largest natural harbor is curving Elliott Bay, which has a wide entrance and a shoreline nearly 10 miles (16 km) long. The harbor is very deep. One of the most important adjuncts of Seattle's port is a ship canal, 8 miles (13 km) long, dug by the U.S. Army Engineers in 1916, connecting Lake Washington with Puget Sound by way of Lake Union. Locks almost as large as those of the Panama Canal lower ships 26 feet (8 meters) from fresh- to saltwater. The canal made Lake Union an extension of the industrial waterfront and led to further expansion of Seattle's maritime industry. The port's container business has grown, on a percentage basis, faster than any other U.S. port; nearly 500 acres (200 ha) of container handling space is provided. There has been a tremendous growth in the port's cruise business as well, with over 200 cruise calls yearly.

8. Seattle receives imports from more than 40 nations, principally Canada, Mexico, and Japan, while exports go to over 70 countries, the leading markets being Japan, Korea, and India. The chief commercial imports are lumber and wood products, limestone and lime rock, gypsum rock, bananas, newsprint, oil and petroleum products, fish and canned salmon, electronic equipment, and automobiles, trucks, and parts. Leading commercial exports are wheat, barley, wheat flour, coal, lumber, rye, beans, oats, and apples.

9. Seattle's major harbor and airport facilities are administered by the Port of Seattle, a municipal corporation embracing a territory with boundaries coextensive with those of King county. The corporation is independent of any city, county, or state agencies. It is governed by a board of five commissioners, elected at large by the voters of King county; they serve four-year terms and establish policy for the port. The Port Commission operates 14 of the largest piers and terminals on the Seattle waterfront. It also operates the Foreign Trade Zone, established by Congress in 1949 as a service to foreign traders. In addition, the Port owns and operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Fishermen's Terminal and Maritime Industrial Center, serving commercial fishing fleets and workboats; Harbor Island Marina; Shilshole Bay Marina; and Bell Street Pier.

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10. The Boeing Company, which had its main plant on the Duwamish River just beyond the city limits, has been a mainstay of the city's economy for many years. In 2001 the company relocated its corporate headquarters to Chicago but left some of the operating assembly plants near Seattle. The Commercial Aviation Services division is still located in the city.

11. Shipbuilding, a huge industry in Seattle during World Wars I and II, now is confined to fishing boats, barges, and pleasure craft. Other manufactured products include electronic, nautical, medical, and dental instruments; luggage; building materials; machinery and fabricated metal products; heating equipment; plastics; cosmetics and perfumes; toys; pharmaceuticals; chemicals; lighting fixtures; paints; canvas and rubber products; and clothing.

12. Seattle has become a leader in high-technology services, research, and products. The city has numerous software and Internet-based companies as well as advanced technology manufacturers. Seattle is also home to several biotech research and development centers, a large biopharmaceutical company, and a large cancer research facility.

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13. The industries based on natural resources, with which Seattle has been historically identified -forest products, agriculture, and fishing- remain important but no longer dominate the economy. The forest-products industry has developed from simple tree felling and lumber cutting to a diversified complex that produces plywood, furniture, office and school fixtures, pulp and paper, and chemicals.

14. The West Coast's largest fishing fleet still sails from Seattle, but out of the old agricultural and fishing economy has grown a more complicated food-processing industry that produces flour, prepared mixes, cereals, animal feeds, beer, wine, candy, and dried, canned, and frozen fruits, vegetables, and seafoods. Recreational opportunities in the area have spurred the manufacture of ski equipment, fishing gear, and other sporting goods.

15. Seattle is served by the Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads, which operate three intermodal yards there. Passenger service to major U.S. cities is provided by Amtrak. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, south of Seattle proper, is utilized by several commercial and passenger airlines as well as by a number of smaller lines.

16. Running through Seattle are U.S. Interstate 5 and the north-south Pacific Coast Highway, and U.S. Interstate 90 enters the city from the east across the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge (formerly, Lake Washington Floating Bridge). The bridge, which spans the lake on floating pontoons, is considered an outstanding engineering achievement. Washington State Ferries, the world's most extensive automobile ferry system, connects Seattle with the Olympic Peninsula, several islands in Puget Sound, and the city of Victoria, British Columbia.

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