Among the rainbow-colored aisles at Greg’s Gardens & Gifts, Michael and Lynne Worth enjoyed a stroll Sunday afternoon as they carefully chose delicate blooms to ornament their deck.
“I think this is it,” Lynne Worth said as she handed a dark red annual to her husband’s tray full of yellow and orange flowers. “When you’re working, it’s hard to get in (planting) as soon as you would want to.”
The Worths, of Longview, were keen to add on to their garden of potted plants in preparation of sunny days to come. They’ll have to wait at least a week as rainstorms are expected to drench Cowlitz County until at least Thursday.
Meteorological experts said, however, the dreary weather isn’t expected to last too long, with summer heat anticipated to intensify Washington’s ongoing drought.
“It’s not normal to get a lot of rain during summer time. The (weather system) doesn’t do much of anything until October,” said Gerald Macke, meteorological technician with the Weather Service. “A quarter of an inch (of rain) won’t mean anything.”
Macke said an area of high pressure pushed precipitation Washington would normally receive north into Canada, making dramatic amounts of rain and snowfall rare this spring and winter.
Since January, the region has received less than average rainfall with only 14.09 inches falling at Portland International Airport. That’s about 3 inches less rainfall the airport usually receives by May, Macke said.
“It’s not a huge deficit. If you go south, the amount of rainfall is even less,” he said. “It takes an awful lot of water to catch up. We’d need Texas-type rain (to end the drought).”
Farmers and irrigators have had some of the toughest times dealing with the amount of rainfall uncharacteristically missing from Washington. But, local gardeners, such as the Worths, don’t mind as much.
“It’s been great. I love the sun and the warmth,” Lynne Worth said.
Greg Moore, who owns Greg’s Gardens, said the dry weather has made his job easier, bringing in more customers who would have been deterred from visiting if it had rained often. Moore said flowers, such as dogwoods, bloomed two weeks earlier than usual but don’t require any more water than they usually do — even with a drought.
Moore said, if anything, the drought will hopefully teach people how to water their plants the right way.
“If people water deep (into the ground) and less frequently, it’s better watering,” the California native said Sunday. “Humans are nurturers. We think more watering is good, but less is more.”
So long, snowmelt
More concerning to Macke is the declining amounts of snowmelt running off into the Columbia River due to hundreds of inches of missing snow at the Cascades.
“It’s basically gone,” he said. “We just didn’t get any snow, and last winter we stayed dry. There are traces of snow in the mountains, but there’s nothing to melt to float into the rivers. The Columbia is going to get lower this summer.”
Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson warned that even though rivers will be lower, the water will be just as dangerous to swim in.
“If there’s water, there’s a concern. The water may be lower, but it’s still going to be over your head,” Nelson said.
Nelson is reforming the Water Recreation Education Safety Quorum to prevent and prepare for any drowning in the Cowlitz River.
“Any drowning is too many. It would be unusual for us to not have any drowning this summer, but the goal is for there to be zero,” he said.