Recent, continuing precipitation lessens threat of state-wide drought

For about a month it appeared that much of Oregon would face a drought, but recent snowfall and continuing rains have nearly eliminated that possibility, at least in the northwest quadrant of the state, where snow pack rose from a dismal 25 to 30 percent to more than 80 in a month.

“Obviously we were looking pretty dry up through January,” said Steve Pierce, owner of Northwest Weather Consultants. “(Portland) had one of its wettest Februarys in a number of years. We’re looking at above-normal precipitation in most of northwest Oregon in the month of February. The Cascades specifically have picked up a whole lot of snow. That’s great news for skiers, great news for hydrologists and for anybody who depends on snow pack for later on in the spring and summer.”

Pierce said the wet weather patterns will continue into March, which will continue to add to the snow pack in the Cascades.

“It’s been long overdue that we finally pick up some significant snow pack in the Cascades,” he said. “We’ve made good strides toward eating away at the snow pack deficit that we saw in December and January. Now we have an active jetstream aimed at the Northwest, ushering in a series of storm systems that really began after the snowstorm.”

This unusual weather is due to a La Nada winter — meaning an absence of either an El Niño or La Niña, the two typical weather variant patterns.

“We’re seeing all sorts of crazy stuff from a wet February, a warmer and dryer January, colder than normal December, it’s just kind of back and forth,” Pierce said. “It’s a La Nada winter, which is exactly what we anticipated in the fall and that’s what we’ve gotten.”

As for Newberg — where an aquifer in northern Marion County provides 94 percent of the city’s water supply ­— Russ Reed said we’re in good shape.

“I charted water levels from a year ago and they’re all around 4 to 6 feet,” said Reed, the city’s water treatment plant manager. “Some were a little higher, some a little lower. We’re really negligible of any effect at all and we haven’t really seen our wettest period yet.”

He added that because water levels are about the same or higher than last year, the city has remained optimistic.

“That’s just not something that’s been a concern,” Reed said.

There has been some concern in the area with mudslides and flooding, but Pierce said moving forward it shouldn’t be an issue.

“If we get three to four inches of rain in 72 hours, then we have a problem with flooding, landslides and too much run off,” he said. “But as much as I don’t want to see a big, wet, ugly spring, it might be best for Oregon to continue to make up some of this.”

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