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Drier year, warm spring expected in Inland Northwest

Unless it turns exceptionally wet in the next few months, the Inland Northwest is in store for an abnormally dry year, with a moderate drought forecast for much of Eastern Washington.

The latest snowpack measurements show the Spokane basin at 74 percent of average, the Newman Lake basin at 58 percent and the Okanogan basin at 89 percent, the Washington Snow Survey Office said Thursday. The Pend Oreille basin, including parts of Idaho and Montana, is the exception, with its snowpack at 101 percent of average.

“Today’s best advice would be conservation and conservative planning for summer water use,” said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

An abnormally dry year is forecast for North Idaho as well as Pend Oreille County, most of Stevens County and the northern part of Spokane County, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. The rest of Washington faces a moderate drought this year, the center predicts, while Southern Idaho will have severe to extreme drought.

Northwest farmers got some good news this week from Art Douglas, professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.

Douglas predicts spring precipitation in the region will be normal to 120 percent of normal and temperatures will be on the warm side, inviting early planting.

“Warming is going to occur pretty rapidly,” Douglas said Tuesday at the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum. “We’re about at the end of the cold spell right now.”

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.