Record dry spell recorded in Portland, Salem

By Steven Dubois

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 3:40 p.m. MDT

FILE--In this Sept, 17, 2012, file photo, a passerby takes in the view from the west summit of Skinner Butte in Eugene, Ore. as smoke settles in the Willamette Valley from a forest fire near Sisters, Ore. It’s sunny in the Pacific Northwest, even on the usually damp western side of the Cascade Range. A forecaster calls the three-month dry spell that has aggravated the wildfire season extraordinary.

The Register-Guard, Chris Pietsch, file, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — Here's the deal Western Oregonians make with the weather: Absorb eight months of depressing drizzle and in exchange, you get spectacular summers in which it almost never rains.

This year, summer held up its end of the deal — it truly almost never rained.

Only a quarter-inch fell at Portland International Airport from July 1 through Sept. 30, according the National Weather Service. That's less than half the previous record for the driest July through September, set 60 years ago.

It was even drier in Salem. The state capital got 0.11 inches of rain during the same three months, breaking its record from summer 1952.

Meanwhile, Eugene, with 0.21 inches of precipitation, enjoyed its second-driest July through September on record.

The three cities each typically get more than 2 inches of rain in that period.

The dry spell has extended into October, a month in which the Willamette Valley cities usually receive about 3 inches of rain.

Based simply on history, Portland's forecast for Oct. 4 should include 30 percent a chance of rain, said Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University.

"Everyone kind of feels like something's missing," Dello said from Corvallis. "When the students come back, usually the rain starts. School's been is session for two weeks now, and it's not raining."

Dello said a "blocking" high pressure system off the coast has been directing storms north toward British Columbia. The National Weather Service forecast calls for yet another pleasant weekend, allowing people to hike, bike and attend football games without fear of getting soaked.

"By the time you're in October you start to say, 'Well, we'll do this if it's not raining,'" Dello said. "Now you can make those plans and know that it will be dry."

The U.S Drought Monitor's weekly update of its drought map shows an increasing amount of Oregon is considered "abnormally dry," including nearly all the coast.

Sparsely populated southeast Oregon, where massive wildfires scorched rangeland this summer, is the only part of the state in a drought. The conditions are most severe near the Nevada state line.

The map updated Thursday indicates 65 percent of the state is at least abnormally dry, mostly the southern half.

Despite the almost rain-free summer, Portland is not rated abnormally dry. Thanks in part to a March that was the wettest on record, the city has received 28.51 inches of precipitation since Jan. 1, more than 6 inches above average.

Online:

U.S. Drought Monitor, http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Follow Steven DuBois at http://twitter.com/pdxdub

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