Drought report for Westend
July 27, 2023
The U.S. Drought Monitor released a Drought Map and Report on July 13 indicating the west end of Wahkiakum County is moving toward the “D2” category, or severe drought. Wahkiakum County has received 50% less precipitation than normal. “Normal” precipitation percentages were developed with data followed from 1991-2020. While light rain may fall at times, the water table for the Grays is very low.
Predictions have been set by the National Weather Service and the U.S. Drought Monitor for August through September and possibly into October at 33% to 40% below normal. Brittle hay and poor growth for grass is becoming a serious concern as the lack of rain leads to lack of growth for the fields. Gus Burkhalter, son of Gary Burkhalter, dairy farmer in Grays River, reported that his dad called the situation “worrisome” because the hay is not coming in as usual and his farm needs it for their herd in the winter. Robert Torppa, a lifelong resident of Grays River, commented that he has never seen the Grays so low in his lifetime. Local streams that have always held water for decades are drying up.
Ideas are developing for landowners who live with a well. Large water tanks are one way to gather large amounts of water, but a water supply to fill them may be in question if the streams coming down the hills are dry. Man built dams on streams may hold water if built soon in case the drought continues as predicted. Those who pump water from the Grays to provide water for stock are encouraged to set up water retention systems for their fields, if possible. Building small dams on streams is one approach being discussed. Beavers are also helpful for water retention. Some areas of the country are building man-made structures similar to beaver dams.
Grays River is currently the worst situation in the County. Deep River has good flow from the Columbia for water access, if needed. Wahkiakum PUD provides water for both Grays River and Deep River. They have wells at the Grays that provide drinking water to homes. For those with concerns, the local Conservation District in Skamokawa is a good resource. Darin Houpt, Regional Director in Longview, can be contacted at (360) 425-1880 in Longview.
The area is currently experiencing an El Nino which has changed summer weather all over the nation. Current patterns are predicted to possibly last through 2024 and perhaps beyond as far as 2030. As part of the El Nino predictions, the coming winter could bring heavy rain with warmer temperatures. Some are remembering the storms of 2007 and 2015 and urging residents to be prepared for both high water and strong winds.
Sunday’s fire across the Columbia River is a reminder of how easily fires start when brush is dry and brittle. All who live here and travel through here are encouraged to drive carefully and be aware of surroundings along the highways. Please observe the burn ban and dispose of cigarettes responsibly. If you see smoke or have concerns about a possible fire, call 911 immediately as the sooner a fire is recognized and dealt with, the better the chances of it being extinguished quickly. Also be mindful of brush and small trees on your own property. Monitor that as well.