The drought outlook in Eastern Washington and around the west is alarming and terrible news for wildfire season. That's according to top scientists in the country.
Washington state is coming out of the driest spring since 1924. It was the second driest spring on record, and those records date back to the 1890s.
"The impact is great," said Josaih Reimers, who lives in Newcastle. "It will dramatically change the course of the summer for a lot of people."
The impacts of thick smoke and severe fires in the Pacific Northwest run deep. So when I told people in Seattle about the terrible drought in Eastern Washington – they took it seriously.
"It's scary," said Laurie Way, who lives in Seattle. "Very scary. It’s bad for our environment. It’s bad for people’s health."
Our state desperately needs a big drink of water -- especially Eastern Washington where the U.S. Drought Monitor labels the region as having extreme drought.
The Climate Prediction Center is calling for warmer and drier-than-usual weather for the rest of June in the Pacific Northwest -- with that trend likely continuing in July and August. That means, there's no real relief in sight for our state's dry, crispy vegetation.
"You’re basically sucking the moisture out of your twigs and branches," said Jeff Marti, water resources planner and drought coordinator for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Marti said the wheat fields in Eastern Washington, including the beloved Palouse, are facing a particular threat for wildfires.
"That is a very high-risk area," Marti said. "The federal government does do wildfire risk predictions, and this summer, much of Central Washington and Southeastern Washington is considered to be at a significant risk of wildfire potential."
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday drought tends to not only increase the risk for fires, but it can prolong a wildfire season. That means this year, fires could extend into September and October.
National Weather Service Seattle Meteorologist Jacob DeFlitch said much of the western U.S. is plagued with intense drought, and that smoke from big fires elsewhere could easily push into Puget Sound.
"Much of that smoke will be drawn up into our area which has been a concern the last, you know, recent years before and it may be again this year with how dry it is much of the area," DeFlitch said.
Here's some good news: while many of our grasslands are dry and primed for fires, Washington State Climatologist Dr. Nick Bond said our snowpack in the mountains is helping to keep our forests moist which can keep big fires at bay for a while.