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Annual Rainfall Comparisons for All Thurston County Precipitation Sites by Water Year

WY 2009

WY 2010

WY 2011

WY 2012

WY 2013

Current Conditions

Winter 2013 - 2014 - DRY (not any more)

Winter is out there somewhere (October - January)......

...Now it has found us and has returned with soaking vengeance

After several months of a strong East Pacific high pressure ridge protecting the west coast of the US, the door has been opened since mid February 2014 for some more typical wet season weather.  After several months of precipitation deficits and drought conditions, the Pacific Northwest is catching up rapidly with seasonal averages.  February 2014 alone racked up almost nine and a half inches of rain (three inches over the average) and March has delivered almost three inches in just the first four days with more to come before we breathe again. 

All of this is of course causing groundwater and stream levels to rise again to a more seasonably consistent levels.  In some cases, such as in the Salmon Creek Basin (Tumwater south) and in the Lake St. Clair areas (east of Lacey), there could be some surface expression of these high groundwater levels.  Reports from both of these locations indicate high high groundwater is causing some isolated flooding.

Lake St. Clair has been especially affected by a trend in rising groundwater levels over the past four years.  Residents around the lake are all too familiar with high water causing high anxiety.  That particular basin has been problematic due to a number of factors that seem to have conspired to raise the lake level.  Groundwater levels throughout Thurston County have risen overall by about 20 percent over the last four years.  In most locations that rise is not enough to create surface breaches of the groundwater table, or create visible problems for residents - it is down there but you just can't see it. There  are a number of factors contributing to this unfortunate situation in vulnerable areas.  Once groundwater levels are high it is very difficult to do anything about it from an engineering point of view. It can a lot of time for these basins to drain to Puget Sound or their nearest river system and get back to a stable platform.

The weather patterns over the last several years has been highly unpredictable and unevenly distributed across the globe so we really have no idea how this new reality is going to affect us regionally or locally.  Think about how often the weather has not just been in the news, but has been the opening topic of the news, over the past few years.

Previous statement (February 2014) - After what appeared to be an ominous early rainfall event in September, 2013, the pipeline went dry.  September 2013 brought the end of the Water Year some impressive statistics to look at.. again.  In less than 10 days we racked up almost 10 inches of rain at the Courthouse.  That is not quite a record but it is a close 2nd place.  This ten day period of well-above-average precipitation raised the groundwater in some areas by over five feet in less than two weeks!  The average rise was two feet for most groundwater wells in the north County area.  This gave reason to worry because if this trend would have continued the normal rise of seven to nine feet on average over the entire winter would have been exceeded in just the first two months of the new Water Year. This would spell trouble for many of the high groundwater areas, some lakes (particularly Lake St Clair) and some medium size urban streams in our area.

Fortunately this trend did not continue, and in fact, it went the other direction by mid October 2013.  In October we received thirty percent our average rainfall. November saw this trend continue with about half the normal rainfall.  December was even lower, with less than 20 percent average precipitation.  January improved slightly with about fifty percent normal rainfall.  The table below numerically summarizes these trends.

The table below summarizes our total and average (normal) rainfall for each of the wet season months so far (WY 2013-14)

September October November December January
Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave. (in) 2013 (in) Ave (in) 2014 (in)
2.66 9.70 4.55 1.76 8.40 4.10 6.76 1.26 6.88 5.30
7.04 in. ABOVE Ave -2.79 in. BELOW Ave -4.30 in. BELOW Ave -5.50 in. BELOW Ave -1.58 in. BELOW Ave.

The table and discussion above represents a complete reversal since the record September rainfall.  Washington State, Oregon and California are now included in a moderate to severe drought stage according to the National Weather Service.  Thurston County has received a total of 12.46 inches of rain since October 1, 2013.  We should be at approximately 30 inches by Feb 1. 

These trends in rapidly fluctuating weather patterns have now become the norm over the past decade.  The winter months of 2013-2014 just add to a continuing trend of unpredictability in our global  weather patterns.  These patterns have become more and more severe and unstable as the years go on.  They make climate and weather patterns almost impossible to predict beyond a couple weeks out.  The supercomputer models that process and compute massive amounts of climate data are all but educated guesses now because they cannot depend on the past to predict the future.  They attempt to use past trends in combination with instantaneous data to develop predictive trend models for upcoming months.  These massive computing machines produce global models used by agriculture, airlines, shipping, retail and global fuel production rates to name a very few.  So the current trends are not just interesting to look at.  They have real world global economic and social impacts that will test virtually every system on earth.  Think about what devastation droughts or prolonged cold weather means to a region or a global market or migration patterns and disease proliferation.  These wild trends could really begin to cause serious long term impacts for everyone in many ways.  So these are not just interesting numbers they represent ecosystems, economies and billions of lives in a changing pattern that we do not know where it will take us.

USGS Multi-Hazards Program - The ArkStorm information page

 NOAA Link to Climate forecasts

NOAA logo - Click to go to the NOAA home page

Conditions Bulletin

What's the Weather?

What are the River Conditions?

Thurston County Emergency Management provides timely data on river levels and background information on when to expect flooding.

What are the Groundwater Conditions?

Current Flooding Threat is - Moderate (March 2014) 

Narrative Explanation of Current Conditions:

 High groundwater issues are possible in vulnerable areas in March, 2014



January 2014 The rains have not returned on schedule.  October 2013 ended one of our driest periods in over 80 years.  We have recorded 12 inches of rain since October 11, 2013.  This is approximately 1/3 of the precipitation we normally receive.  Western Washington is, in fact, in a mild drought pattern.

September 2012 was the driest on record following the driest August on record

August 2012 was the driest on record for the Olympia area and most of Western Washington

August 30-2012 - Black lake UPDATE - As of August 28, 2012 the Black Ditch was cleared of three beaver dams that were severely restricting normal flows north out of Black Lake.  The dams were removed and the materials were take off site by Thurston County Public Works Department.  As of August 30th no attempts by the beavers to reconstruct any of the dams was observed and unrestricted flow out of Black Lake was still occurring.  The lake is lowering by approximately 2 inches per day or more.  The drawdown to normal levels of the lake will likely take two weeks or more.


What's Happening With the Tides?

Contact Us

Contact Mark Biever, R.G, L.P.E.G- Thurston County Environmental Monitoring Program Supervisor,  by e-mail bieverm@co.thurston.wa.us. or

for Lake information contact Janie Civille, Ph.D.  by email at Civillj@co.thurston.w.us

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