JB Lewis-McChord, WA (JBLM) Local InformationTacoma, Washington is the closest major city to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Tacoma has about 200,000 people, and is in Pierce County, which has a population of about 812,000 people overall.
McChord is surrounded by several small cities and other small communities within 15 minutes commute, including Lakewood (59,000), Spanaway (28,000), Parkland (36,000), and Roy (about 800). Slightly further away, but in 30 minutes commuting distance, are Dupont (9,000), Steilacoom (6,000), Puyallup (38,000), Graham (24,000), Lacey (43,000), and Yelm (7,000). Be advised that the I-5 corridor, especially near base, and the state route 512 corridor can become very clogged in rush hour traffic, and commute times can double. The average commute in Pierce County is about 26 minutes.
Local Housing Rental Prices: The average apartment rent in the Tacoma area ranges from $650 to $1,100 per month, with a median of about $850 per month.
Local Housing Purchase Prices: The average price for a house in Pierce County is about $265,000, compared to $283,000 for Washington.
Short Description of the Area: Tacoma is a mid-sized city, the third largest city in Washington, and part of the greater Seattle Metro area. Pierce County is roughly mid-way between the north and south state borders, on the western side of the state, next to Puget Sound. The area is generally green, mild, and somewhat humid, with a major waterway on the west and a major mountain range to the east.
Climate and Weather: The area has a cool, semi-dry but rainy climate, with winter temperatures of the high 40s to mid-30s and summer temperatures of the mid-70s to mid-50s. Summers fairly cool, but dry, usually with one or two heat spikes into the 90s. Winters are cool, not usually cold, with one or two plunges into the teens, and a mild, warm period most Februarys. The Puget Sound is famous for steady rain, but this is light (New York City actually receives more annual precipitation) and usually from late fall through late spring. Summer do not usually have a monsoon rainy season. Thunderstorms and heavy snow are rare. Tornadoes are extremely rare. Some winters experience heavy rain, leading to flooding. Overall the area is temperate and moderate.
Local Culture: This area is the home of coffee culture, and coffee stands and shops can be found easily. Many locals are very concerned about making sure the water system is drinkable, and that the air is breathable. Recycling and limited waste is a serious concern. The climate encourages indoor activities, whether sports, reading, movies, or theater. The Great Seattle Area has one of the highest densities of bookstores in the USA.
The Seattle Eastside is a nest of tech types, including Boeing and Microsoft and various other concerns. 'Geek' culture has deep roots there, and has spread around the Sound. Seattle hosts several gaming, comic, steampunk, and other geek conventions, and there are several local specialty stores catering to this taste. One of the largest comics and games shops in the world is located in Lacey, WA, and there are many others, some with attached cafes or pubs.
The state capital, Olympia, Washington, is about 25 minutes south on I-5. It's part of the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater tri-cities area, and has a thriving and unique downtown area.
Local Hazards: Generally, the Puget Sound / Greater Seattle area is a nice, moderate, temperate place. Wildlife can wander down out of the mountains, include bears, but this is not common. Volcano Warning: Mount Rainier is not an active volcano, but Mount St. Helens (50 miles south) is currently quiet but active, and there are other inactive volcanoes in the area. In the unlikely event Mount Rainier wakes up, be ready to leave. Earthquakes are not common, and generally not large, but they do happen occasionally.