It’s a totally fair question I’ve been getting on social media and even on email…
WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT DROUGHT AND RECORD RAINFALL AT THE SAME TIME? or…
HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY BE IN DROUGHT? MORE “FAKE MEDIA” WEATHER NEWS? (someone actually suggested that 2nd one)
1) The Portland television market is much larger than you think. We broadcast to temperate rain forests and also to very dry deserts. Some areas ARE in severe drought right now, but others (everywhere west of the Cascades) have plenty of water for the next few months. No drought here!
2) East of the mountains, regular rain & mountain snow has improved conditions slightly over the past 6 weeks. But it takes a long time to erase a 2-3 year long drought!
First, the USDA Drought Monitor shows the current extent of drought. NO drought from Eugene north to the Canadian border. We have plenty of water this year west of the Cascades. Notice the Cascades themselves are just fine too.
Now take a look at the Portland TV market viewing area. These are counties where Portland television is the dominant local TV news source. There are about 200 TV markets around the USA.
Notice it ends at Albany west of the Cascades (Eugene is its own TV market), and does not include Bend/Deschutes county east of the mountains. Yet it extends to Baker and Harney counties! “Gerrymander” is the word of the year, and it applies to our viewing area. All Portland TV stations focus on these areas. You’ll notice our forecasts generally cover these areas. Sometimes I’ve had people ask why we don’t forecast for Medford or Klamath Falls. That’s because they have their own TV stations down there.
Now lay that over the Drought Monitor and you see maybe 50% of our geographic viewing area is in drought. That said, only about 10% of our viewers live east of the Cascades. Something like 85% of our viewers live just in the I-5 corridor counties from Longview to Albany, thus our focus here. But we sure don’t want to leave those of you east of the mountains out of either forecasts or drought talk…and THAT is why we cover it.
Of course April and May HAS been cooler/wetter than normal east of the Cascades in the drought areas. Notice the foothills of the Blue Mountains (Umatilla River drainage) is in good shape now after lots of mountain snow and some rain events. But back in Central Oregon things are still very bad. Redmond picked up less than 1″ of rain since April 1st! Wickiup Reservoir is already dropping since irrigation season started last month. Prineville Reservoir is below last year (a drought year) and WAY below normal.
To summarize (again)
IF YOU LIVE OVER OR WEST OF THE CASCADES NORTH OF EUGENE there will be plenty of water this summer and we are not in a drought
IF YOU LIVE IN MOST OF THE REST OF OREGON a third year of water shortages, low reservoirs, & irrigation cutoffs has begun
Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen