It doesn’t feel like drought in Sisters


Last updated 6/14/2022 at Noon


Whychus Creek was running high and muddy on Saturday, as steady rain fell.

After a winter of low snowpack and rainfall, with dire warnings regarding continuing drought and high wildfire risk, Mother Nature has let loose a lot of moisture of late. But she just might be toying with us.

For making yearly comparisons, the water year begins on October 1. Sisters is located in the Upper Deschutes and Crooked River basins. On June 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Services issued their Oregon Basin Outlook Report, the opening paragraph of which contained this statement:

“Much of central and southern Oregon are experiencing continued below to well-below median streamflow and reservoir storage volumes. These regions are being impacted by drought with impacts persisting through the summer.”

Apparently, Mother Nature doesn’t check with the Department of Agriculture before turning on the faucet. A good share of early June has seen gray skies, heavy rainfall, and swollen, rushing creeks. On Saturday, June 11, Whychus Creek in Sisters was reported at 455 cubic feet/second compared to 65cfs on June 3. The creek was running fast and muddy, and flooded outside its normal banks.

Even with May having 200 percent of the median precipitation, it doesn’t have much of an impact on the water year-to-date totals, which is a little below 100 percent of median. The snowpack for February, March, and April was well below the median, and that missing snow impacts overall totals.

In the report’s summary of water supply conditions, the following points were made:

Snowpack: As of June 1, the basin snowpack is rapidly melting out. Snowpack is 51 percent of the peak on April 21, and 40 percent of the median peak on March 28.

Precipitation: May precipitation is 200 percent of median. Precipitation since the beginning of the water year (October 1 – June 1) has been 98 percent of median.

Reservoir: As of June 1, storage at major reservoirs in the basin ranges from 21 percent of median at Crescent Lake to 107 percent of median at Crane Prairie.

Steamflow forecast: The June through September streamflow forecasts in the basin range from 57 percent to 103 percent of median. Overall, forecasts increased significantly from last month’s report. Water managers in the basin should expect well below median to near median streamflows this spring and summer.

A valuable website is by county, maintained by the National Integrated Drought Information System. This site is updated every Thursday and is loaded with lots of relevant information with color-coded maps. You can get notified when conditions change by signing up for alerts.

On the site you can track current drought conditions using a five-category system, from abnormally dry to exceptional drought. Short-term and long-term drought indicators are monitored. Another map tracks agricultural commodities statistics for crops and livestock in drought conditions.

A third map depicts real-time streamflow conditions compared to historical conditions for the day of the year.

The social vulnerability index is tracked alongside the drought designations to help local officials

identify communities that may need support in preparing for or recovering from hazards, like drought.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s Monthly Drought Outlook is issued at the end of each calendar month and is valid for the upcoming month. The Outlook predicts whether drought will persist, develop, improve, or be removed over the next month. For the month of June, all of Deschutes County, except for the far western edge, was expected to see the drought persist.


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