Soon after Rob Ousbey started commuting over the West Seattle bridge, he began to routinely wonder, “Can I see Mount Rainier today?”
“It’s achingly cool that some days you just wake up and look out and there’s this mountain looming over the city,” Rob said in his British accent (he moved here from London in 2000). “There’s so much more meaning behind whether or not the mountain’s out. What we really mean is, ‘Is the weather good or is it going to be a shitty day?’”
So Rob tried an experiment. He created @IsMtRainierOut and every day he tweeted at least one webcam image of the view of Mount Rainier taken from an air-quality monitoring station in Queen Anne. The first week the answer was “no” every day. But then he got a “yes,” told a few of his friends – who retweeted him – and his following grew.
Then last year, Rob hit a snag: The agency that was running the webcam shut down its air-monitoring station. They had no idea Rob was using their photos, and when he reached out, he never heard back. So “Is the Mountain Out?” went on an indefinite hiatus.
But his luck took a turn. Rob was speaking at a local conference and ended up chatting with the team from the Space Needle. They said he could use their webcam — and just like that, @IsMtRainierOut was back in business. (Side note: The Space Needle’s webcam includes 360-degree views of the city archived all the way back to Dec. 30, 2014. It’s super cool.)
Now tweeting “yes” or “no” is part of Rob’s daily routine again.
“The fact that some days it’ll get dozens of retweets or occasionally hundreds of likes … I feel a bit of a sense of duty,” he said. “It’s for no purpose other than to just be another thing that lets Seattleites connect and bond over this ridiculous question that no one else would really understand.”
So, is the mountain out today?
— Is the Mountain Out? (@IsMtRainierOut) September 28, 2016
No, but check back tomorrow. Rob will be tweeting.
Big thanks to Evergrey reader Karen Olson for connecting us with Rob.