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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane under ‘exceptional drought’ for the first time ever

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

The U.S. Drought Monitor has put Spokane under the most extreme level of drought, making it the first time in the history of the Monitor that Spokane has reached such a drastic measure.

The U.S. Drought Monitor uses four levels of extremity to track drought levels. Thursday’s drought readings show Spokane and most of southeastern Washington under the most severe level: “exceptional drought.”

The Monitor has most of Washington under some form of drought, with it generally getting drier as the map moves east.

Spokane has received 2.06 inches of rain since the start of February through July 23, making it the driest spell ever recorded for Spokane during that time period, according to the National Weather Service Office in Spokane.

Spokane has also received just 0.12 inches of rain in July, all of which came during the thunderstorm on Wednesday.

It probably won’t get much better anytime soon.

“As for anything that will fix this exceptional drought pattern, there’s nothing in the near future,” said Mark Turner, observation program leader at NWS Spokane.

Turner said it’s certainly possible Spokane could get thunderstorms and showers here and there in the next couple of weeks, but Spokane would need an extended period of precipitation to get out of its exceptional drought.

Unfortunately, the brief cooldown in Spokane, which has helped slightly with drought conditions, will be ending soon.

Temperatures will return to the low to high 90s starting Sunday and through next week, according to NWS Spokane. These temperatures will be above the historical average for late July.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a drought emergency declaration for most of the state, signifying that the water supply is projected to be below 75% of average.

The declaration gave the state department of Ecology permission to take emergency relief measures to protect public water supplies, safeguard fish and boost streamflows.

The U.S. Drought Monitor lists historic state impacts of extreme drought, including low crop yields, reduced tourism, unprecedented wildfires, toxic algae blooms and low hydropower production.

No impacts of exceptional drought are listed in Washington, as it was unprecedented in the history of the U.S. Drought Monitor in the state until areas near Ritzville and Asotin were listed under exceptional drought last week.