October 5, 2012 in City

Portland sees record dryness

Steven Dubois Associated Press
Associated Press photo

The sun reflects off the Willamette River as its waters pass under the Hawthorne Bridge in downtown Portland on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)

Winds add to fire danger

SEATTLE – Dry east winds are bringing a higher risk of wildfires to most of Western Washington and Western Oregon.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for critical fire danger Thursday and today. Forecasters said the winds, combined with low humidity, could cause any fire to rapidly spread out of control. The east winds should ease this weekend.

A fire spokeswoman late Thursday night said a new Western Washington wildfire burning northeast of Shelton is threatening 100 structures – including at least a dozen homes – and has grown to 150 acres.

More than 100 firefighters from three counties planned to work through the night protecting homes and battling the flames. Spokeswoman Sarah Foster said Thursday night winds had calmed and the temperature was dropping – both good signs.

Residents of about a dozen homes in the Johns Creek area were told to evacuate.

The area is about 45 miles southwest of Seattle.

Associated Press

PORTLAND – Here’s the deal Western Oregonians make with the weather: Absorb eight months of depressing drizzle and in exchange, you get spectacular summers during 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 to 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 Thursday should have included a 30 percent chance of rain, said Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University.

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 another pleasant weekend.

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 of the coast.

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