Rain, Rain, Go Away: January’s record rainfall breaks three year dry spell

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CORRECTION: A previously published version of this story spelled meteorologist Mark Nelsen’s name as Mark Nelson. A correction has been made in the story below. We apologize for the error.

After a dry spell at the end of 2019, January broke the record for being the wettest month Oregon has had in close to three years. With Fox 12 Oregon News noting measurable rainfall on 27 out of the 31 days, even skilled Oregonians felt the need to pull their umbrellas out of the closet.

Mark Nelsen, Chief Meteorologist with Fox 12 Oregon News, described what causes a wet winter. “Along the West coast, our wettest winter weather is when we have westerly flow coming off the Pacific Ocean, a succession of weather disturbances,” shared Nelsen. “When it’s one after the other, it just slowly adds up.”

Nelsen described, with the help of fellow Broadcast Meteorologist Anne Campolongo, how the sinking air experienced in November of 2019 diverted storms from surfacing until the January month. 

“We had two very dry years, so we were due for a wetter winter. It was time to have a wet month,” Nelsen explained. 

While the Portland area was able to avoid flooding at the beginning of Oregon’s ‘Water Year’, Umatilla County as well as other places outside of the city were hit hard with rising water levels. 

Forest Grove’s B Street Farm Manager, Ron Calkins, explained the effect of sudden rain bursts on agricultural efforts.

“Gales Creek floods every year. It just depends on how severe it floods, so right now we’re dealing with that,” Calkins said, seated in the dry safety of the B Street Farm office. “In your growing area, if it’s sustained flooding, it could damage your humus layer of soil … we watch for that.”

Calkins continued to share that during the wet season he often prioritizes completing maintenance on his equipment and prep-work for the upcoming season, as the continuous rain and drop in temperature can be detrimental to the plants.

“It’s [the rain] something that if you’re going to grow in this valley, in this zone, then it’s kind of a foregone conclusion,” Calkins explained. “Though, greenhouses help with that.” 

Along with mudslides and farm-flooding, the sudden surge of grey, wet days can also affect mental health. Continual cloudy skies can spur feelings of depression or low motivation.

Hannah Brassell, a clinician at Pacific University’s Student Counseling Center, described Seasonal Affective Disorder as  “a version of major depressive disorder that has a seasonal component to it.” 

She brainstormed a few techniques to help combat poor mental health during the ‘Water Year’ — having a healthy sleep routine, avoiding naps, alcohol, and caffeine, and getting light exposure. 

“I think staying active and not giving into that feeling of wanting to hibernate is something that is really helpful,” Brassell shared. “Give yourself that motivation … instead of snuggling up with a blanket and some hot chocolate every day. It sounds nice, but it can perpetuate that depressed feeling or feeling of low motivation.”

Most of all, though, Brassell highlighted the importance of seeking professional help when you feel you may need it.

“It’s normal to feel that way,” Brassell admitted. “You’re not the only one that’s experiencing that.” 

The good news is, after such a cold and wet month here in Oregon, Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen thinks the worst may be over—at least, in the foreseeable future. 

“Just looking a week ahead,  it looks kind of dryish the second half of February,” Nelsen shared, throwing a “maybe” at the end and eliciting some laughter in the broadcast room. 

“I always imagine all that nice weather we have coming,” Nelsen concluded. “We always get a dry season. And when it does stop raining, especially in spring, man it’s beautiful!”


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