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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Agriculture

Spokane’s second-driest spring on record so far could cause problems for farmers

UPDATED: Thu., May 20, 2021

Water droplets gather on a leaf on Spokane’s South Hill, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Rain is in forecast through Thursday afternoon.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Water droplets gather on a leaf on Spokane’s South Hill, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Rain is in forecast through Thursday afternoon. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane has endured the second-driest spring on record, and it could mean trouble for local agriculture.

Since March 20, the official start of spring, Spokane has seen less than a half-inch of rain. About a tenth of an inch had fallen in Spokane as of Thursday evening.

“About one shower away from being the record for the driest period for that time,” said Steve Bodnar, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Spokane.

The driest stretch of spring to date was 1924, with two-fifths of an inch of rain from March 20 to May 19 that year.

This week will bring some welcome relief with light showers, but not enough to put Pat Munts’ mind at ease. Munts, the small farms and urban agriculture coordinator for Washington State University Spokane County extension office, isn’t surprised to hear this spring has brought a record-breaking dry spell.

“I can’t remember the last year like this and I’ve lived here since ‘76, so, yeah, it’s been dry,” Munts said.

She expects a possible shortage in hay.

“In my role at WSU, I’m telling folks not to plant pasture. It’s not worth it because there’s no moisture in the ground now,” Munts said. “It’s just wasting money, and seed isn’t cheap.”

People looking to grow grasses for their animals will have to wait until fall to seed, she said. Stocking up on hay now isn’t a bad idea either, she said. Gardeners planting new plants can plan to water them more than usual. Anyone with a grassy yard should make sure their sprinklers are tested and ready to go, she said.

The dry spell will have effects all summer long, she said. Munts said now is the time the ground finishes storing up its moisture for the summer, but without any soaking rains in weeks, there’s little reserved.

She’s also worried for grain farmers in the area.

“If we don’t get a rain pretty soon, we’re going to have stunted growth,” Munts said.

The saving grace has been low temperatures, she said. Bodnar said to expect cool days ahead. Temperatures will be lower than normal Friday, slowly rebounding to the upper 60s through the weekend.

Bodnar said to expect on and off chances for some showers through Monday. Friday will have a low around 38 and high of 62, while Saturday’s high will climb to 67, followed by a high of 68 Sunday.

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