- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Western Oregon has finally escaped the drought that has plagued it since last spring.

A drought outlook map released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday shows Western Oregon either not in a drought or in a situation where drought removal is likely, reported The Statesman Journal (http://stjr.nl/1Qv8DPB ).

The region has rebounded from the drought that began to take hold in June thanks to a higher-than-normal rate of precipitation since October and decent snowpack in the Cascade Range.

“Things got a lot better in the last couple of weeks,” said Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University. “This is just a snapshot in time - and given El Nino things are still up in the air for the rest of the winter - but overall it’s very encouraging.”

The abundant rain and nearly average snowpack are good, but that’s not enough to ensure the drought won’t return next year, according to hydrologist Andy Bryant of the National Weather Service in Portland.

“The tough thing is that most of this water isn’t going to help us next summer,” Bryant said. “If it gets to January and all of a sudden we stop getting snow - and that’s what happened last year - then we’re still going to be in trouble again next summer.”

Meanwhile, the USDA map shows Eastern Oregon as an area where the drought is expected to remain but improve.

“It’s still going to take a lot to dig Eastern Oregon out of this drought,” said Dello.

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Information from: Statesman Journal, http://www.statesmanjournal.com

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