Eastern Washington has no areas in a “severe drought” for the first time since March 2020, according to the latest report from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Eastern Washington has had a lot of rain over the past week due to strong plumes of moisture from the subtropics, which is unusual for this time of year, said Valerie Thaler, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Spokane.
The moisture will continue into this weekend, which was expected to bring more rain beginning on Thursday and lasting through Saturday. The National Weather Service anticipated 1-2 inches in the Cascades over Thursday night and half an inch throughout parts of Eastern Washington, Thaler said. The unseasonable wet conditions are expected to continue through the rest of June, Thaler said.
“We are seeing very wet weather, but also because it has been cooler our snowpack has been slow to melt, which has been resulting in above-normal snowpack conditions,” she said.
The slow, steady snowpack melt-off is generally better for drought conditions in the long term, she added.
Although the recent weather is good for drought conditions, it can have a negative impact on the fire season by spurring growth in short-term fuels like grasses and shrubs, she said.
The region also has been in a precipitation deficit since February 2021.
The recent rain is a welcome change for Eastern Washington farmers , said Washington Grain Commission CEO Glen Squires.
“Last year, with the heat, we had the lowest crop output since 1964,” Squires said. “At this point in time last year, our subsoil moisture was at about 24% adequate and surplus, and this year it’s at 84% . So that’s a huge change.”
Wheat farmers can expect 67 bushels per acre this year, compared with only 42 bushels per acre last year, Squires said. The higher yields mean more wheat to sell and, ultimately, more money in farmers’ pockets, he said.
Spokane County no longer has “moderate drought” conditions as of this week and was downgraded to “abnormally dry.”
The last time this happened was in April 2021. The last time there were no drought conditions in Spokane County was in March 2021.
The majority of Douglas, Grant, Ferry and Stevens counties were considered under “severe drought” last week, but are now under “moderate drought” conditions. Most of Eastern Washington is still considered “abnormally dry,” but parts of Chelan and Okanogan counties are no longer under any drought status.
Most of North Idaho also was in the clear, although there were abnormally dry conditions in Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties.
Central Montana and large swaths of Eastern Oregon and California still are under “extreme” and “exceptional” drought conditions.