No rain: Eugene off to driest start in history

EUGENE, Ore. - Pat Konrady took his motor boat out on Fern Ridge Reservoir on Monday.

"I think we need more rain he said,"

Eugene in 2013 is off to the driest start in recorded history.

Only 5.09 inches of rain fell in January, February and March combined, the least moist start to a year since recordkeeping started in 1892.

Normal rainfall for the same period is 17.29 inches. The previous record of 5.67 inches of rain was set in 2001.

For sail boaters at Fern Ridge Reservoir, the record-dry start to the year has delayed the start of sailing season. The water doesn't reach boat ramps, and docks are on dry land instead of floating.

According to one estimate, the water is as much as 7 feet below where it should be this time of year. The water in the reservoir is barely a foot and half deep in spots.

"The bathroom's ready, the gates are open. Grass is clean. we're ready to take people into the parks for the marina," said David Stockdale with Lane County Parks, "but there's not really water in the lake."

Winter didn't produce the rain that normally fills the reservoir.

"In January, February, March, we just didn't have any of those really big heavy rains - 2 inches a day, an inch a day, for a week," said Scott Coleman, who runs a sailboat company.

Dry, dry, dry

Three of the 5 driest years on record have come since 2001. Only 6.5 inches fell in 2005, the 4th driest start to a year.

The "rain year" - which started last October - got off to a normal start before the rain stopped. Since October 1, 24.43 inches of rain have fallen; the long term average for the first 6 months of the rain year is 36.09 inches.

The National Weather Service said mountain snowpack remains about average despite the dry spell in the inland valleys.

Other Oregon locations setting record-dry starts to the year include downtown Portland, where only 6.99 inches of rain fell; Salem, with 5.26 inches; and McMinnville, with only 4.6 inches of rain.