NASELLE - Following a late summer and early fall of higher than average rainfall, the weather in the Pacific Northwest reversed itself and the late fall and winter months have been much drier than average. That dry condition continued through January with a smaller accumulation of precipitation than normal measured at the Naselle Hatchery. A rainfall accumulation of 11.42 inches was measured at the hatchery for the month. That compares to a 25-year average of 17.86 inches.

Since Nov. 1, 33.26 inches of rain has fallen at the hatchery. That contrasts to the 3-month?s average of 54.85 inches, for a 59.4 percent average rainfall for those three months. Along with the decreased rain, the temperatures have been almost summer-like with a high of 66 reached two days into February.

Starting Jan. 18, there were 17 days in a row when the high temperature did not drop below 55 degrees. Of those days, there were seven straight days when the temperature reached 61 degrees or higher. After a slight dip, the mercury climbed to more than 60 degrees for the first three days in February. These twin conditions of low precipitation and high temperatures have spelled serious problems for the snow pack in the high mountain areas of the northwest.

Strangely enough, there were only six totally dry days in January. And 7.02 inches of the month's total rain fell during one five day period with a daily high total of 4.30 inches recorded on the morning of Jan. 18. More than 61 percent of the month's total rainfall was recorded during that five-day deluge.

While the last half of the month was unseasonably dry and warm, the first half of the month was more normal - at least in regard to the thermometer. There were 10 nights when the mercury dipped below freezing, with a low of 23 degrees reached on three separate nights early in the month, and daytime temperatures reaching highs only in the 40s.

What does the rest of the winter promise? If one goes on the basis of "Punxatawney Phil," the weather groundhog from back east, seeing his shadow, we can expect six more weeks of winter weather. If one goes by what the weather forecasters are saying - well it just might be more of the warmer and drier stuff.

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