Water’s rushing through Douglas County’s streams and rivers and the snowpack looks good.
But that doesn’t mean the drought is over, unfortunately.
“I’m not doing a happy dance yet,” said Douglas County Watermaster Susan Douthit.
Droughts are a long-term problem and it’s going to take more water to fix it.
“We need a good soaking for a couple months,” Douthit said. “The soils are very dry and so soils are picking it up. Not that this last rain hasn’t helped, ‘cause everything helps, but we have a long ways to go,” she said.
Drought conditions have improved, though.
An Oregon Water Conditions Report by the Oregon Water Resources Department dated Dec. 28 said the recent precipitation at that point had improved drought conditions, but more than 93% of Oregon was still experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions.
On Dec. 21 the U.S. Drought Monitor listed most of Douglas County in “severe drought,” with areas of the even worse “extreme drought” category in East County.
But on Thursday, those conditions had improved some, with the northwest portion of the county rated “moderate drought” and the “rest in severe drought.”
Snow levels and streamflows are both high.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported the North Umpqua River at Winchester Dam had a streamflow of 21,700 cubic feet per second on Thursday, a flow that’s more than triple the average for the date.
As of Thursday, the National Water and Climate Center’s Oregon SNOTEL map showed the current snow water equivalent in the Rogue and Umpqua Valleys at 151% of normal.
Douthit said the snowpack on Red Butte and that on King Mountain both measured 44 inches at the end of December. But it was dry, fluffy snow. At Red Butte, that 44 inches of snow equated to 8.8 inches of water, while the King Mountain snow equated to 10 inches.
The question now is what happens in the next few months.
“I would be so excited if we have a ton of snow up there come April,” she said.
She’s also hoping for more rain in the coming months.
“If everybody wants to cross their fingers for a good, steady, long rain I would be especially appreciative,” she said.
Charles Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Medford, said over the past 10 days, central Douglas County received 2.73 inches of liquid, both rain and snow.
A few nearby sites had significantly more.
Burnt Ridge about 40 miles west of Roseburg saw 7.2 inches of precipitation over the past 10 days, and Devil’s Graveyard outside of Elkton saw 5.66 inches.
Over the past 10 days, a high-pressure system has directed a northern storm track our way, causing the wetter weather, he said. But it’s also an El Niña year. Unlike her warmer brother El Niño, El Niña brings the Pacific Northwest cool and wet weather.
But, he noted, drought is a long-term thing. The wet winter and snow are helping, but it’s not enough.
“Probably to get us completely out of the drought, it’ll take another good winter,” he said.