Oregon Reaches Critical Drought Levels After Driest Summer West of the Cascades in 40 Years

Hot, dry conditions continue to fuel fires and will likely harm agriculture.

Barn off US Highway 97, about 150km north of Bend. (Todd Kopriva)

It's no surprise that during a year where Portland saw a record number of 90-degree days, drought conditions across Oregon have reached critical levels.

According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, 93 percent of the state is in a drought and 100 percent of the state is classified as abnormally dry.

Also, as the latest water condition report from the Oregon Water Resources Department notes, expanding drought conditions have pushed 70 percent of the state, including Portland, into "severe" drought status.

A severe drought classification indicates losses of pastures and cropland as well as probable water shortages.

The current drought is a result of both record heat—on Sept. 5 Portland saw its 31st day over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, making this the hottest year in city record by that measurement—and abnormally sparse rainfall.

Related: It's Now Officially the Hottest Year in Portland History, and the City's Air Quality Ranks Among the Worst Worldwide

In the last 90 days, NIDIS reports, precipitation levels in western Oregon were the lowest they have been in 40 years.

And while shifting weather patterns have cleared smoke from city skies, and improved Portland's air quality, there are still many active blazes throughout the state.

Related: Portland Wakes Up to the Worst Air Quality of Any Major North American City

NIDIS counts 14 large wildfires currently burning over 116,500 acres.

"Significant fire potential," the agency writes, "is expected to be above normal through September."

UPDATE, 2:51 pm: Across the border in California, the enormous Delta fire has shut down 14 miles of Interstate 5.

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