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Mount Rainier, an active stratovolcano, is the state's highest elevation at almost 14,411 feet (4,392 m) and is the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous United States. Its rugged surface is rich in stands of Douglas fir, hemlock, ponderosa pine, white pine, spruce, larch, and cedar.The state is the biggest producer of apples, hops, pears, red raspberries, spearmint oil, and sweet cherries, and ranks high in the production of apricots, asparagus, dry edible peas, grapes, lentils, peppermint oil, and potatoes.Despite western Washington's having a marine climate similar to those of many coastal cities of Europe, there are exceptions such as the "Big Snow" events of 1880, 1881, 18 and the "deep freeze" winters of 1883–84, 1915–16, 1949––56, among others.During these events western Washington experienced up to 6 feet (1.8 m) of snow, sub-zero (−18 °C) temperatures, three months with snow on the ground, and lakes and rivers frozen over for weeks.Washington is the 18th largest state with an area of 71,362 square miles (184,827 km), and the 13th most populous state with over 7.4 million people.Approximately 60 percent of Washington's residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area, the center of transportation, business, and industry along Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean consisting of numerous islands, deep fjords, and bays carved out by glaciers.Washington is part of a region known as the Pacific Northwest, a term which always includes Washington and Oregon and may or may not include some or all of the following, depending on the user's intent: Idaho, western Montana, northern California, British Columbia, and Alaska.
The Palouse southeast region of Washington was grassland that has been mostly converted into farmland, and extends to the Blue Mountains.
As described above, Washington's climate varies greatly from west to east.
An oceanic climate (also called "west coast marine climate") predominates in western Washington, and a much drier semi-arid climate prevails east of the Cascade Range.
For Washington this means prevailing winds from the northwest bring relatively cool air and a predictably dry season.
In the autumn and winter, a low-pressure cyclone system takes over in the north Pacific Ocean, with air spiraling inward in a counter-clockwise fashion.