Central Oregon rain helpful for farmers, but small relief for drought

The Oregonian reported on Sunday that Portland is experiencing its wettest spring on record. Here in Central Oregon, things aren’t looking too dry either, especially over this past weekend.

The significant rainfall caused high water levels in local waterways, including Whychus Creek and Tumalo Creek.

“For folks that frequent those parks and areas, they were kind of surprised about the levels,” said Kyle Gorman, the Regional Manager for the Oregon Water Resources Department.

“In Tumalo Creek, we can see full levels like we saw recently over this weekend in late November or December when we have rain on snow events,” Gorman added. “This just so happened to be a June event, and the level was much much higher than it would have been had we not received that rain or in a normal year where the snow melts and we don’t have any precipitation to add to that .”

Related: From bad to worse: Drought conditions could fuel nasty wildfire season

He said the Deschutes Basin itself has received an average amount of precipitation this spring and is nowhere near any records for our area.

However, it did help to improve the outlook for local farmers.

“Instead of high-demand, hot weather where you need a lot of water, it has allowed the irrigation districts to keep their canals lower and extend that meager supply that they had at the beginning of this irrigation season, so we can see places where the irrigation season has extended even a month from what we expected back in the spring,” he said.

Despite that assistance, Gorman said the rain hasn’t made any big dents in the drought conditions.

“You can’t expect it to stay cool and wet all summer long in Central Oregon,” he said. “The typical weather is hot and dry, at some point we’re going to get there. What we need actually is two winters of above average to well above average snow and precipitation to bring us out of the drought conditions that we’re in now. It’ll take some substantial winter storms over several years. This recent rain and cool weather is nice, but it’s not going to get us out of the drought.”

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