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Is Portland Headed for a Drought Emergency?

According to Brad Pugh of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, the coming months will bring “little or no relief.”

Portlanders have never been so happy to see rain in May.

After weeks of unseasonably hot weather, this week’s precipitation has been a welcome reprieve. But it’s not enough to bring the Willamette Valley out of the dry spell that we’ve been experiencing for over a year.

Most of the Willamette Valley is currently in severe drought. According to Brad Pugh of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, the coming months will bring “little or no relief.”

“The mostly likely scenario would be for intensifying drought conditions through the summer months,” says Pugh.

Other parts of Oregon are worse off. The Klamath Basin is already experience a drought emergency that’s causing a water crisis on the Oregon-California border. If conditions in western Oregon reach extreme or exceptional drought, the Willamette Valley could be looking at water shortages, too.

That’s bad news for wildfire season. This same drought was a factor in last year’s megafires, and it’s only intensified since then. Particularly concerning is the dryness of Oregon’s soils, much of which is already in the lowest fifth percentile.

“It’s a major concern,” says Pugh. “Drought is a climate phenomenon we’ll have to certainly be aware of.”

WW talked to Pugh about what’s driving the drought and just how worried Portlanders should be.

See more Distant Voices interviews here.