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Spring rain is back. That bodes well for local water supplies, wildfire outlook

A view "from Seattle with love" on May 14, 2020.
Tim Durkan
Tim Durkan Photography
A view "from Seattle with love" on May 14, 2020.

After a heat wave that left many of us dreaming of summer, more typical spring weather is back in the greater Puget Sound region. That means a chance of rain pretty much every day and temperatures in the 60s, along with clouds and sun breaks.  

It also means the summer outlook for water supplies, stream flows and wildfires are looking normal to favorable, despite a scary dry spell in April.

“It does not appear that we’ll start the summer — the late spring and early summer — with dry conditions,” says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

Mass says modeling from the European Center, which is considered the most accurate source of longer-term forecasts, has a new 46-day outlook. It predicts precipitation levels through June 26.

“What they’re showing is a little bit above normal for us: about half an inch more rain than normal for that period, through the end of June,” Mass says. It also shows 3-5 inches more precipitation than normal in parts of southern Oregon and northwestern California, where it is definitely needed, he said.

Mass says the outlook for water supply was close to normal on April 1, which is the date meteorologists look at snowpack to see what the summer melt we be like.

“I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that. There’ll be plenty of water melting into the rivers and supplying water,” Mass says. “So that’s good.”

And he says a check of local reservoirs also looks favorable now. 

“They’re in excellent shape. The large reservoir system for Seattle is now above normal,” he says. “So, stocked up for Seattle and the other areas around Puget Sound that use that supply.”

And he says the Yakima water system — critical for agriculture east of the Cascade Mountains — also is a little bit above normal right now.

Mass says all of this, snow pack, stream flows, reservoir levels and the forecast for above-normal precipitation, adds up.

“If you look at all of these elements, I think we’re in pretty good shape for water as we go into the summer,” he says.     

Additionally, despite that dry spell in April, he says people do not need to worry about an extreme wildfire season this year.

“At this point in time,” Mass says, “there’s no reason to expect a worse than normal fire season.”

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to