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Pacific cyclone mists Rogue Valley

While weather monitors reported storms of wind and heavy rain battering the West Coast over the past week, Ashland saw just enough precipitation to take the edge off extreme drought.

“The rain has been great from an overall drought perspective locally, but much more is needed in order to provide some relief, especially with the higher storage reservoirs operated by the Talent Irrigation District and Bureau of Reclamation,” said Ashland Public Works Director Scott Fleury.

The rain increased stream flows from the east and west forks of Ashland Creek into Reeder Reservoir, supported by significant decreases in domestic water usage and outdoor irrigation, Fleury said.

Meanwhile, a “parade of storms walloped the region over the weekend, leaving a bevy of destruction triggered by the heaviest rainfall in a 24-hour period some areas have ever seen,” according to the AccuWeather Global Weather Center, resulting in flooding, debris flows, mudslides, high water rescues and traffic accidents in drought-stricken landscapes, especially in California’s Bay Area.

San Francisco nearly doubled a 2009 record for rainfall Oct. 23, with more than four inches hitting the city in a day.

National news outlets reported Sunday that more than 160,000 homes and businesses in California, 170,000 in Washington and 28,000 in Oregon lost power due to extreme weather.

A bomb cyclone developed over the northern Pacific Ocean Friday, catalyzing a series of storms expected to shower parts of Washington, Oregon, western Nevada and California north of Bakersfield in significant rain and snow at higher elevations.

Weather Underground recorded just over 3 inches of precipitation at a monitoring station above Siskiyou Boulevard overall during the month of October, with the largest accumulation recorded Sunday.

As of Tuesday, an estimated 203,206 Jackson County residents were still affected by severe drought, with no change from the previous month, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.

This year brought the 15th wettest September — with about an inch more precipitation than usual — during the 13th driest year to date overall in five generations. The seasonal outlook for Jackson County predicts that drought conditions will persist but improve.

Stream flow Tuesday was recorded as normal at 11 monitoring sites on the Applegate River, Ashland Creek, Bear Creek and Rogue River. Stream flow was below normal in the Rogue River near McLeod and below Prospect, and above normal in Elk Creek near Trail and the South Fork of the Rogue River near Prospect.

According to the National Weather Service, snow is likely between 7,500-10,000 feet elevation in the mountains through Wednesday.

Reeder Reservoi dropped below the projected drawdown curve in late July and began to recover in mid-October, according to Ashland’s water usage dashboard. Plant production peaked June 30 at 6 million gallons used during the day.

Locally, a typical October yields a dramatic reduction in water plant production due to shorter days, cooler temperatures and less overall use in the fall and winter, Fleury said.

A summer average of 5-6 million gallons per day drops to 1.75-2 million gallons per day in the winter, and the reservoir sits around 60% full to provide some flood control and storage space for winter precipitation events.

Ashland stopped drawing from the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix intertie Oct. 13, “as the rain and fall conditions no longer warranted the additional water supply moving forward,” Fleury said in an email.

Plant operators will manage the reservoir at 60% — a level reached Monday — until late spring 2022, when filling begins ahead of the next summer season.