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Severe drought worsens in central Washington

The most recent drought monitor report shows 12 percent of Washington is now listed under a severe drought.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The latest U.S. drought monitor, released on April 16, shows a large area of central Washington along the east slopes of the Cascades now under a severe drought. Additionally, nearly the entire eastern side of the state is now reporting abnormally dry conditions for mid-April.

Credit: KREM 2 Weather
U.S. Drought Monitor as of April 16, 2020

This worsening of dry weather is a culmination of about two to two-and-a-half months of continuous and consistent dry weather. Rain and snowfall has been too scattered to put a large dent into soil moisture and snow pack, and thus drought conditions have begun to develop and expand. 

Central Washington had been reporting moderate drought conditions since the start of the year. By mid-February, 19% of the state was listed at moderate drought. Now that has increased to 28%.

The precipitation statistics tell and even more drastic story. Omak just experienced their driest ever stretch from February 8 to April 15. In that near 10-week span, it only rained twice for a grand total of four-hundredths of an inch. Spokane also saw its driest ever Feb. 8 to Apr. 15 with only 1.17 inches of precipitation.

So what does this mean for the future, the rest of Spring and Summer? That outlook is somewhat unclear and cannot be said with high degrees of certainty. The most likely scenario is that drought will continue to expand across the state into the summer, as summer is the driest part of the year for central Washington and the Inland Northwest.

The wildfire outlook is even more up in the air. While an early Spring drought doesn't bode well, more specific and local factors will go into determining an outlook that specific. But I can say that snow pack levels are far better in 2020 than they were heading into 2015 when we had by far the worst fire season on record.