Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityWhile atmospheric rivers bring heavy rain, Oregon largely remains in drought | KCBY
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While atmospheric rivers bring heavy rain, Oregon largely remains in drought

Raindrops fall into a puddle. (Courtesy Doris Conley)
Raindrops fall into a puddle. (Courtesy Doris Conley)
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For the first time in five months, Oregon isn't completely in drought.

Since the beginning of May, 100% of the state of Oregon has been in some level of drought. The US Drought Monitor has illustrated how historically dry it has been throughout the state.

But now, a small portion of that map, in the northwest, is no longer in drought. Recent heavy rains are to thank for the turnaround.

Climatologist Larry O'Neill with Oregon State University says, historically, atmospheric rivers provide 30 to 50% of the state's annual rainfall.

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"The series of atmospheric rivers that we've had over the last month has dumped a lot of rain there," said O'Neill. "More rain there than anywhere else in the state."

Other parts of Oregon, however, are still suffering from horrendously dry conditions.

"And each year -- consecutive year of a drought -- the impacts get more severe as we are grappling with reduced water supplies," explains O'Neill.

The difference is apparent when looking at last November compared to this November -- about a quarter of the state is under the worst drought level on the spectrum.

"Those areas have had really long-term precipitation deficits, actually spanning back to 2011," said O'Neill. "Most have been well below average in precipitation and snowpack."

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Atmospheric rivers are beneficial for heavy rain, but can also be a wildcard when it comes to the snowpack.

"So, there'll be above freezing into really high elevations, and it will cause a really rapid melt out of the snow as you get like what we call a 'rain on snow' event," explained O'Neill.

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He says, ideally, it would be better to receive rain more regularly instead of big weather events, but at this point, the state will take whatever moisture it can get.

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