Agriculture is the dominating influence in Yakima, a city located at the eastern base of the Cascade Range. Good soil, sunny days, and irrigation from the Yakima River support the area’s many orchards, which produce apples, pears, peaches, and other fruits. The city has a plain small-town character, although a large Hispanic population attracted by farm labor adds a hint of cultural diversity.
Yakima is one of the country’s best examples of the “rain shadow” effect: The city is one of the 10 driest in the nation with 8 inches of rain annually, while Seattle, less than 150 miles northwest, receives five times as much rain with three times as many cloudy days. Residents enjoy the dry climate, low cost of living, and small town lifestyle.
Yakima, located in a small east-west valley, resides in an area of complex topography with a number of minor valleys and ridges rising as much as 1,000 feet. There are marked variations in temperature and winds within short distances. The valley is mostly farm and orchard land while surrounding hills are dry and grass-covered. The valley climate is relatively mild and dry. It has characteristics of both maritime and continental climates modified by nearby mountains.
Summers are dry and hot; afternoons can reach 100 deg. F, but the dry air reduces the impact and leads to cool evenings usually in the 50’s. Summer inversions can trap air in the valley, creating poor air quality. The maritime influence is strongest in winter, which is cloudy and cool with only light snowfall. Below-zero temperatures may occur. Most precipitation arrives in fall and winter. First freeze is early November, last is late March.