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Northwest approaches 'peak dryness' much sooner than expected

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Things are drying out in the Northwest sooner than normal. Both Washington state and Oregon are approaching what's called "peak dryness."

Oregon mostly recovered from severe droughts this year. Heavy rain and snow hit many areas, and snowpack built up in the mountains.

But everything’s been on a low bake since May. All the sunny days last month have added up to warmer soils and plants drying out more quickly. The driest part of the year usually hits in mid- or late-summer.

“We all know that fire season, you know every week we can delay it, is a good thing," said Larry O’Neill, Oregon’s state climatologist. "That’s why we’re so concerned with how warm it’s getting and how little precipitation we’re getting.”

Washington is starting to feel the parch, too. In the Yakima River Basin, some junior-water-rights farmers will be restricted on their irrigation water this year.

The National Interagency Coordination Center says the chance for significant wildfires in central and eastern Washington is now above normal. It also says that above-normal outlook will extend to nearly the entire state next month.

Most of Western Washington is currently dealing with an elevated fire risk. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning Tuesday for the western slopes of the Cascades, because of the breezy conditions, low humidity levels, and warming temperatures.

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