Almost one-third of Washington is suffering an “extreme drought,” the first time the state has reached those conditions in a decade, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.
Meanwhile, a slice of Western Oregon running north and south through seven coastal counties is also in extreme drought for the first time.
Low streams, parched soils and the risk of wildfires tightened the drought’s grip on the West, according to the drought monitor, a partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The worsening of conditions was especially apparent in Washington, where every region has seen the severity of the drought increase.
Sections of Western, Central and Eastern Washington, making up nearly 32 percent of the state, is in extreme drought, one step above severe drought and one below exceptional drought. Portions of the state not in extreme drought are in severe drought. Only one-quarter of the state was in severe drought six weeks ago.
In 2005, Washington’s last statewide drought before this year, 14 percent of state reached extreme drought status in mid-
September and stayed for approximately three months.
In 2001, until this year generally recognized as the state’s worst drought since 1977, nearly 6 percent of Washington was in an extreme drought between September and November.
Idaho also saw an increase in the percentage of the state in extreme drought, jumping from 7 percent the week before to 22 percent.
California’s drought status was unchanged. Some 46 percent of the state is in an exceptional drought, while another 28 percent is in an extreme drought.
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center forecasts that all of Washington has a strong chance of above average temperatures and below average rainfall through at least mid-October. The rest of the West has a better chance for normal temperatures and precipitation, according to the prediction center.
Some 34 percent of the U.S. Geological Survey’s 146 stream gauges in Washington were reporting record lows Thursday for the date.