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Recent rainfall not enough to pull Oregon out of severe drought

Chief Meteorologist Matt Zaffino explained that while this rain is helpful in the short term, it takes a long time to get out of a drought.

PORTLAND, Ore — Despite significant rain falling in the Northwest over the last few weeks, most of Oregon is still experiencing drought conditions, with much of the state in a severe drought or worse. 

Scott emailed The Story, asking, "Are we still in the middle of a severe drought? Kind of ironic considering we have flood watches and warnings for the state." 

Chief Meteorologist Matt Zaffino explained that getting out of a drought will take time. 

"When you think about drought, you really have to think long-term," Zaffino said. "You don't get into a drought over a week or a month and you don't get out of a drought with a couple of good weeks of rainfall." 

For the month of November so far, Portland has recorded 2.51 inches of rainfall, which is 0.69 inches above average for the month to date. November is one of Oregon's wettest months of the year. 

Credit: KGW

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But looking at the rainfall over the course of a year paints a different picture. Since Jan. 1, Portland has recorded 24.57 inches of rainfall, which is nearly 3 inches below average. 

"That's in spite of above-average rainfall in September and October, and doing well so far in November. It just points out that it takes a while to get out of a drought," said Zaffino. "We're not even at average rainfall for the calendar year, let alone long-term." 

The last year Portland had above-average rainfall was 2017. Other parts of Oregon have seen even lower levels of rainfall than Portland, Zaffino said. All-time record heat this past summer — coming off the driest spring and summer on record — are all factors that contribute to a drought. 

Credit: KGW

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"Just because we have flood watches right now — which we should, because we're getting a lot of water — that's a short-term thing," Zaffino explained. "Drought is a long-term effect that takes months, if not years, to get out of it."

Northwest Oregon is the only part of the state not currently in drought status. Parts of Central, Eastern and Southern Oregon are still seeing extreme and exceptional drought. 

"Not only is it a long-term condition, it's also widespread," said Zaffino. Most of California, Nevada and Utah are still in a drought. 

There is some reason to be hopeful — Zaffino said a wet winter with lots of mountain snow could potentially have the drought map looking a lot different by spring.