news and events » news

News Header

News Item

return to News

Willamette Valley’s cool, wet summer differs from Central Oregon conditions

by Zach Urness, Salem (Ore.) Statesman-Journal |

This is what an Oregon summer is supposed to feel like.

In terms of temperature and precipitation, this summer is sitting close to average, right in the middle of the pack, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

“I think people’s perception is that this has been a cooler summer,” National Weather Service meteorologist Will Ahue said. “That’s probably because we’ve had some very warm years recently, especially in the middle of the decade.”

In the Willamette Valley, it has been the coolest and wettest start to summer since 2012, with an average temperature of 62.2 degrees and 1.41 inches of rain in the central Willamette Valley. The Portland area has been even wetter.

That’s good news for the west side of the state in terms of wildfire danger, where the moist weather has kept the wildfire season at bay and fire danger below normal.

“In terms of the real fire season, we’ve kept holding it off and holding it off,” said Nick Yonker with the Oregon Department of Forestry. “Eventually, we’re going to get a real hot streak of weather and likely a system with lightning. At that point, it’ll largely come down to whether it’s wet lightning or dry lightning. But, that hasn’t happened yet.”

Yonker said Western Oregon is likely to hold off major wildfire danger into late July at least. The forecast continues to favor cooler temperatures, with highs sticking to the 70s in the valley, and the upper 60s in the mountains.

“The long-term trends still favor hotter-than-normal temperatures in August and September, but for now at least, things should stay very normal,” Ahue said.

>> Central Oregon likely to become hot spot for wildfires

The first place in Oregon that’s likely to get hit by a collection of wildfires is Central Oregon, and down into the Klamath Falls area, Yonker said.

The forests on the east side of the Cascade Range have been getting full sun, without the marine layer that’s been covering the west side in the mornings. That’s making the forests more receptive to wildfire starts. And indeed, the Paulina Lake Fire, outside Bend, grew to 48 acres over the weekend before fire teams knocked it down.

“What’s helped is that the east side hasn’t seen any lightning either,” Yonker said. “That helps. Once the heat arrives a little more and we get lightning, I would expect to see Central Oregon become the first place that’s lightning up with the most wildfire activity.”

>> Drought emergency in seven counties

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown last week declared a drought emergency in seven counties.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the governor’s July 1 emergency drought declaration covers regions where agriculture relies on scant water: Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson in central Oregon, Douglas and Josephine counties in southern Oregon, and Gilliam and Wasco counties in the Columbia River Gorge.

The governor’s declaration enables the state Department of Agriculture to seek federal aid. It also instructs the Oregon Water Resources Department to “coordinate and provide assistance to water users,” like irrigation districts.

The City of Bend alerted its residents Monday to conserve water.

Bend’s warning does not include any new mandatory restrictions, instead asking residents to be responsible and follow specific, existing rules, like not watering lawns and gardens during the hottest daytime hours.

The city has two sources of water: a spring high in the Cascade Mountains and an aquifer deep underground. Irrigation districts serving farmland in Central Oregon pull water out of the Deschutes River. Those reservoirs are at historic lows this year.