Record dry conditions continue

As this picture shows, November isn't too late to worry about fires in the normally wet Naselle area. This fire, between the Bighill Road and the upper Naselle River, flared up after abnormally dry conditions continued through October into November. A brisk east wind and dry conditions may have helped to re-ignite a smoldering slash burn which hadn't shown any signs of life for over a month. However, DNR officials have still not determined the exact cause. Local volunteer fire departments responded to the flames last Friday until the Department of Natural Resources moved in equipment and crews from the Naselle Youth Camp to control the fire over the weekend. The fire got into some standing timber before it was controlled.

NASELLE - Just about all the questions about an extended dry period, if not an outright drought, were removed when the expected October rains failed to materialize in the Northwest. The 1.41 inches of precipitation measured at the Naselle Hatchery during October came in as the second driest October in the last 24 years, topped only by the 0.56 of an inch in October 1987. The 24-year October average is 9.90 inches.

This year's four month total rainfall from July through October did, however, set a record for dryness with only 3.71 inches during that span of time. Prior to this year's record setter, the July to October record was 4.57 inches in 1987. The ten month rainfall total for the year is 67.44 inches, well behind the 10 month average of 80.32 inches.

If it wouldn't have been for a one day soaking early in the month, this October would have been the driest October on record. The 0.76 of an inch of rain on Oct. 2 and 10 other days of mist and drizzle were enough to register in the rain gauges but were not enough to do much for the fire danger, the low rivers, and the area's straining water systems.

In addition, streams at a near record low level all over the Northwest, and continued water restrictions by water systems like the Naselle Water Company are evidence of the continuing problem.

The dryness was exacerbated by the abnormally cold weather accompanied by strong east winds, especially late in the month. There were seven nights below freezing with lows of 23 F and 21 F on the last two nights of the month. On those same two nights, the newly installed weather station at the Naselle Schools recorded temperatures of 22 and 19 degrees respectively.

On the other end of the thermometer, a high of 84 F. was recorded on the 17th, following 83 F. a day earlier. There were also four days with highs in the 70s. All in all, it was a very nice fall month - if one can forget about the lack of rainfall.

Can that deficit be made up? Likely, especially if November and December follow the pattern of three of the last four years when 49 to 60 inches of rain were recorded locally during those two months.

However, the dryness could continue as it did during 2000 when only 16.51 inches fell during the last two months of that year. If the predictions of another El Nino year are accurate, 2002 could become one of the driest years in the last two (plus) decades.

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