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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Drought defined weather in 2001

Drought defined weather in 2001

An October moon bid its early-morning glow on bare mountain peaks and ridges that usually show signs of winter. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).
An October moon bid its early-morning glow on bare mountain peaks and ridges that usually show signs of winter. (Baker City Herald photograph by S. John Collins).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

As you bandage your blistered palms after another bout with the snow shovel, the drought that defined the weather in 2001 might seem like some dim event of history.

But it will be remembered.

Baker County is known for its paucity of precipitation, but rarely has that lack been as acute as in 2001.

During the year, a meager 7.62 inches fell at the Baker City Municipal Airport. Just five years since 1943, the first year for which records are available, have been drier.

And four of those, interestingly, occurred during a six-year period.

The record-holder for aridity is 1949, with an even 7 inches. Close behind (or ahead, depending on how you look at it) are 1954 (7.11 inches), 1944 (7.44), 1951 (7.46) and 1950 (7.50).

The shortage of rain and snow was the only truly unusual weather story last year.

The range of temperatures was wide 108 degrees separated the coldest day from the hottest but thats typical for this country so many miles from the Pacific Oceans moderating breezes.

The years chilliest temperature, 6 below zero on Jan. 28, was far too warm to threaten any records.

Summer was hotter than average but the years top temperature of 102 might not have been paid as much attention had it not occurred on Independence Day.

Following are brief recaps of each month:

January

The weather was typical for mid-winter in Baker County, with daytime temperatures only twice reaching 40, and nighttime lows dipping below freezing every day.

Heavy snow fell on the 11th, but the rest of the month was relatively dry thanks to persistent high-pressure that created a temperature inversion cold air was trapped in the valleys while surrounding mountains basked in sunshine.

Avg. high: 30.2 (long-term avg: 33.4)

Avg. low: 13.7 (16.1)

Precipitation: .86 (.89)

February

That inversion held on for most of the first half of the month.

Warmer weather arrived in the second half, but spring did not make one of its rare early appearances.

The dry trend, though, already was apparent.

Avg. high: 38.2 (40.6)

Avg. low: 16.9 (26.2)

Precipitation: .20 (.64)

March

Spring-like temperatures arrived, but without the soaking showers typical of the season.

Ranchers and others who depend on melting mountain snow began to worry as the jet stream continued to steer storms away from Northeastern Oregon.

Avg. high: 54.1 (49.2)

Avg. low: 26.7 (26.2)

Precipitation: .50 (.79)

April

Maybe there would be no drought, it seemed.

April showers there were, and in above-average profusion. The snowpack statistics inched closer to average, too.

Avg. high: 56.0 (58.7)

Avg. low: 28.2 (30.1)

Precipitation: .97 (.80)

May

Aprils dampness did not last into May.

The month, on average the wettest of the year, instead was one of the driest. Only three Mays have been drier.

Daytime temperatures were well warmer than normal, although the lack of clouds to hold in that heat allowed nighttime temperatures to plunge below average most evenings.

Avg. high: 72.4 (67.2)

Avg. low: 36.4 (38.1)

Precipitation: .39 (1.41)

June

Like May, this is supposed to be a moist month, and like May, it wasnt this time.

Temperatures were unremarkable, although the 93-degree high on the 21st was a bit early for such midsummer heat.

Avg. high: 74.8 (74.8)

Avg. low: 42.3 (44.3)

Precipitation: .49 (1.39)

July

A series of thundershowers boosted the monthly rainfall well above average, but it was too late to be of much help to the water-starved county.

Temperatures were close to normal warm days (and a few hot ones) and cool nights.

Avg. high: 84.7 (84.5)

Avg. low: 49.7 (47.7)

Precipitation: .90 (.52)

August

Definitely the most drought-like month of the year.

Thunderstorms erupted elsewhere, and temperatures were even hotter than usual during the normally stifling dog days.

Avg. high: 91.2 (83.8)

Avg. low: 48.9 (46.2)

Precipitation: .06 (.71)

September

After skipping a month, the thunderous downpours returned, at least for a couple of days.

That was enough to exceed the rainfall average, which isnt particularly impressive anyway.

The rain was somewhat offset, though, by hot temperatures just three Septembers were warmer.

Avg. high: 81.4 (75.1)

Avg. low: 41.8 (38.4)

Precipitation: .87 (.59)

October

Mild days and infrequent storms left the mountains barren of snow, fueling fears of another winter deficit.

Rainfall was close to average, though.

Avg. high: 61.2 (62.1)

Avg. low: 31.5 (30.0)

Precipitation: .59 (.65)

November

The first half seemed more like October than October did, but then winter took over.

That warm start kept monthly average temperatures above normal, but by the 30th it seemed the snowpack worries might be unfounded.

Avg. high: 48.3 (45.2)

Avg. low: 25.0 (24.3)

Precipitation: .82 (.93)

December

Late Novembers trend continued, with the countys coldest, snowiest December in a decade.

Any chance of breaking the record for the least rainfall in a calendar year ended with a blizzard on the 13th.

Avg. high: 31.9 (35.5)

Avg. low: 16.8 (17.9)

Precipitation: .97 (.95)

 
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