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Mar 26, 2015

03:33:14 GMT--Drought - North-America - USA

EDIS Number: DR-20150314-47316-USA

Date / time: 14/03/2015 05:12:51 [UTC]

Event: Drought

Area: North-America

Country: USA

State/County: State of Oregon

Location: [Statewide]

Number of Deads: N/A

Number of Injured: N/A

Number of Infected: N/A

Number of Missing: N/A

Number of Affected: N/A

Number of Evacuated: N/A

Damage level: Heavy


Perilously low snowpack levels in two southeastern Oregon counties have Gov. Kate Brown ready to declare a dought-related emergency. The state's Drought Council has decided conditions are so dry in Lake and Malheur counties, a crisis is underway. After receiving pleas from both counties to recognize a drought, the council has sent recommendations to the governor to make it official. "It is likely that she will sign them upon receipt," probably on Monday, Brown's spokeswoman Melissa Navas said in an email Friday. Declarations for Harney and Klamath counties likely aren't far behind, said Cory Grogan, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Management. The news comes hours after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a drought in three regions of the state, including the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the central Cascades and the Walla Walla region. The U.S. Drought Monitor, which measures risk of drought nationwide, shows an ominous red splotch over more than a quarter of Oregon, with nearly all of Lake, Malheur and Harney counties completely engulfed in "extreme drought." Much of the rest of the state is facing severe to moderate drought, according to the monitor. More than 1.5 million Oregonians are affected. The emergency declaration gives the Oregon Water Resources Department authority beyond its typical water management role. Among them, the agency could issue temporary emergency permits to water users, allow the owners of surface water rights to tap ground water and prioritize certain water uses over others. Although Oregon has received a normal amount of precipitation this winter, strangely warm temperatures have caused most of it to fall down as rain, not snow. Snowpack across the state is startlingly low, with many lower-elevation monitoring stations showing no snow at all. In Lake and Malheur counties, snowpack is at about a quarter of normal conditions. Worsening matters, meteorologists say peak snowpack has already come and gone. From here on out, any new snowfall won't be enough to offset the ongoing melt. "That snowpack provides a reservoir of water for everything below it through the summer," said Brett Lutz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford. "Without it, we're going to have less water in terms of streamflow, less water in the reservoirs, in lakes, and in the water table in general." Similarly low snowpack levels across the Northwest are causing concerns that Oregon and surrounding states could be in for a summer of wildfires and water shortages. It's nothing new in the southeastern quarter of the state, where residents are facing their third straight year of poor snowpack. "The cumulative effect is at least equally as significant as the short-term situation, maybe moreso," Lutz said. As global climate change worsens, Lutz said, "We should be bracing for this to be more commonplace." The National Weather Service's latest drought outlook indicates the warm, dry spell in southeastern Oregon could worsen through the spring, causing the drought to spread. Matthew Cullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, said parts of the state west of the Cascades could fare better, because those areas typically rely on spring rain to fill reservoirs. In the east, summer snowmelt is vitally important. "Without snowpack to sustain streams throughout the spring and summer...there are many issues for commerce, recreation, you name it," Cullen said.

Event updates:

Situation Update No. 1 on 2015-03-21 at 03:32:48.

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