Mother Nature not tipping hand over outlook

Written by Pat Caldwell, for The Observer November 15, 2013 09:12 am

Fans bring their own shelter from the drizzle during Saturday's La Grande High School girls' playoff game Saturday in La Grande. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Fans bring their own shelter from the drizzle during Saturday's La Grande High School girls' playoff game Saturday in La Grande. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
 

When National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Wojcik talks about the upcoming winter paradigm he doesn’t focus on inclement weather.

Instead, he talks about another lingering climate element for most of Eastern Oregon — drought.

That may be because a good share of Eastern Oregon is either in abnormally dry or locked in outright extreme drought conditions.

“Last winter was pretty dry. We are in serious drought for Southeast Oregon,” Wojcik, a meteorologist at the Boise, Idaho, office of the National Weather Service, said.

Most of Malheur County faces severe drought conditions. A small section of Malheur County is firmly sealed in extreme drought. 

Large swaths of Union County are wedged in either the abnormally dry or moderately dry category, according to the National Weather Service’s drought monitor map. 

What the southwestern region needs, Wojcik said, is a normal or above normal precipitation load this winter. 

But Mother Nature isn’t ready to tip her hand regarding the upcoming winter, Wojcik said. 

“Typically, what we look for are patterns. We look to the equatorial region in the Pacific,” he said.

Right now, there appear to be no major variations in weather patterns to allow meteorologists to make a reasonable estimate of severity of the upcoming winter season.

“We don’t have any clear signals indicating one way or another,” said Diana Hayden, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pendleton. “It’s just hard to say this far out.”

Wojcik said the best case scenario will be a lot of precipitation during the winter months.

“We are hoping that we have normal precipitation. Above normal precipitation would be fantastic,” he said.

Wojcik said that the region could likely face an array of weather conditions.

“We will probably go through cycles,” he said.

If those cycles fail to produce a good snowpack, however, the region could face starker drought conditions in 2014.

“You carry drought conditions through next year and we are back to square one,” he said.

Meteorologist Rachel Trimarco, also with the Pendleton National Weather Service, said drought is not as big an issue locally as it is in Southeastern Oregon.

“We’re not as concerned about drought as Boise is,” she said.

While regional meteorologists are cautious about long-term predictions revolving around the winter, Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort Marketing Director Chelsea McLagan said there is already a subtle undercurrent of enthusiasm building across the region to hit the slopes.

“It seems like our community is really excited,” McLagan said.