Wet weather breaks records

You bet it's been wet!

Steady rain Tuesday and Wednesday set two new daily records at the Medford airport and new benchmarks in Eastern Oregon that could stand for decades.

Tuesday's .41 inch narrowly broke the old record for May 27 of .40 inch (set in 1932), and Wednesday's heavy showers added .45 inch, slightly more than the old May 28 record (.42 inch, set in 1945).

"It's really late in the season for this to happen," said Ryan Sandler, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Medford.

Sandler said we can blame all the rain on an unusually large late-spring storm and an erratic jet stream that carried it across Southern Oregon and Northern California.

"This time of year the jet stream is usually in Canada," Sandler said, "but it dipped down into Northern California."

Sandler said high-altitude winds in the storm reached speeds of up to 170 mph.

"We were on the wet side of the jet," he said.

The jet dipped south and then turned north, bringing heavy rain east of the Cascades and only light showers to many areas of the coast — just the opposite of the typical weather pattern. Fort Rock, in Eastern Oregon's high desert country, had 2.06 inches of rain over the 48-hour period from 7 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Thursday, while Bandon had .05 inch.

Snow levels were quite high, however. A few heavy wet flakes fell briefly at Crater Lake's visitor center (elevation 6,200 feet), said Jim Carey, dispatcher at the park's ranger station.

There were still 62 inches of snow on the ground — more than 5 feet — at the visitor's center Thursday, Carey said.

All the rain helped push Medford's total rainfall since Sept. 1 to 16.25 inches, slightly below the average accumulation of 16.84 inches by late May. The weather service measures rainfall for the "water year," which runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31.

Sandler said the big storm has finally moved on, and the worst of the rain is apparently over, although there will likely be plenty of clouds today. There's a 20 percent chance of thunderstorms Saturday and a 20 percent chance of showers Sunday as a smaller storm moves onshore. Weekend temperatures are expected to climb back into the 70s, where most people think they ought to be as May slides into June.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.

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