Drought conditions remain critical throughout the Inland Northwest, but recent rain has taken the edge off slightly in Northeast Washington.
While much of Spokane County remains in an exceptional drought, the worst category for drought, parts of the region have been lowered to “extreme,” signs that a cooler, wetter autumn will spell an end to the scorching summer.
The drought level fell in much of Stevens and Pend Oreille counties as well as in northeastern Spokane County, according to the weekly map from the U.S. Drought Monitor. In the map released Thursday, 87% Spokane County was in an exceptional drought, the first time since July that the county wasn’t fully in the worst category.
However, most of the region remains in exceptional drought conditions, said Steve Bodnar, National Weather Service Spokane meteorologist.
“Looking at precipitation in the Spokane area, up until the first day in October, we were still running about 4.4 inches below,” Bodnar said. “It’s going to take many more wet weather systems over an extended period of time to completely remove this drought.”
Much-needed rainfall swept through the county in the past few weeks, Bodnar said. In fact, all of the Pacific Northwest was at or above average precipitation.
From Aug. 11 through Oct. 9, northeast Washington saw upwards of 3 to 4 inches of rainfall, Bodnar said. Farther south, like in Walla Walla County, there was an average of 1 to 2 inches during that period.
Compared to early August, it’s been an improvement, Bodnar said. During the summer Spokane saw several heat waves and shattered record temperatures. The summer of 2021 was the hottest summer on record in Spokane and one of the driest since 1895, Bodnar said.
Though about 4 to 7 more inches of rain will have to fall to reach average annual levels, the past few weeks have shown a “completely different signal” from what levels were in the summer, Bodnar said.
“It’s promising news that there will be systems bringing additional precipitation to the area. It’s not going to happen overnight, that’s for sure,” Bodnar said.
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