Dry Season

Drought returns to the valley

June 25, 2005

Summer is officially and thoroughly here. The weather has been beautiful of late, but low snowpack means one thing: drought.

Our dry times are here, as Janet Cook reports on News Headlines, "Can a wet spring offset a dry winter and help Hood River County avoid DROUGHT?."

Summer lawns may have to go without water. Low elevation snowpack “is pretty much gone,” OSU Extension horticulturist Steve Castagnoli is quoted as saying. In short, the snowpack is at a fraction of normal — just 33 percent at the 5,400-foot level on Mount Hood.

Thirty-three percent is a good batting average, a barely acceptable voter turnout, but a troubling level for snowpack. We know we have a problem when drought brings on water cutbacks for farmers, or even when word of possible cutbacks is issued by water service authorities such as Farmer’s Irrigation District. But that is where things stand.

Yet it comes as no real surprise. In April, this newspaper published a report by an Oregon State University climatologist who predicted a difficult drought year.

“We project that the drought severity the northwestern states are now experiencing will only get worse in coming months, and reach levels that were generally seen during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s,” said Ronald Neilson, a bioclimatologist with the U.S. Forest Service and professor of botany at OSU.

Invoking the Dust Bowl may seem like a case of hydrological hyperbole, but it does not overstate the need for care and conservation in home watering. It’s time to accept that civic duty.

It’s not easy being green — and not always possible.

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Latest video:

Lawnmower torches Arbor Vitae on Portland Drive

The riding lawn mower driven by Norma Cannon overheated and made contact with dry arbor vitae owned by Lee and Norma Curtis, sending more than a dozen of the tightly-packed trees up in flames. The mower, visible at far right, was totaled. No one was injured; neighbors first kept the fire at bay with garden hoses and Westside and Hood River Fire Departments responded and doused the fire before it reached any structures. Westside Fire chief Jim Trammell, in blue shirt, directs firefighters. The video was taken by Capt. Dave Smith of Hood River Fire Department. Enlarge

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