Protecting the beautiful rivers, wild lands and legendary botanical diversity of Oregon's Kalmiopsis Country

Thunderstorms bring half inch of rain to heart of Chetco Bar fire, other parts see cooler temperatures

A series of thunderstorms moved through southwest Oregon and northwest California on September 6th and 7th bringing cooler temperatures, relief from smoke, intermittent rain, and unfortunately lightning. What effect the storms had on the Chetco Bar fire we can’t assess but here’s some good news from the September 8th 9:00 a.m. Chetco Bar fire update:

Where it occurred, rainfall and high humidity levels greatly reduced fire activity and growth yesterday and overnight.

Chetco Bar fire area on Sept. 6th
Snapshot from NASA Worldview for September 6th. Initially there was fog along the coast and more smoke than clouds over the Chetco Bar and other fires. The red dots represent fire or heat anomalies. The High Cascades Complex fire (NE corner) appeared the most active in the region on this day.

On the east side of the Chetco Bar fire, the rain was more abundant with the 9:00 a.m. update reporting wet weather and often numerous and intense showers, with some areas receiving 1/4 to 1/2 inch of precipitation and in some places even a full inch.

Because the Kalmiopsis – Wild Rivers Coast region is where we live (and before these general reports were available from Inciweb) we checked the 24 hour precipitation totals yesterday evening. using NOAA’s Hazards and Weather Viewer.  Here’s what we found as of September 7th at 6:00 p.m.:

Starting in the north, the tiny community of Agness—inland from Gold Beach on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, received a nice .41 inches. Agness is roughly 12 miles from the north end of the Chetco Bar fire—burning on South Bend Mountain—on the north side of the Wild and Scenic Illinois River.

Snapshot from NASA Worldview on September 7th, with some of the smoke that covered the Chetco Bar fire area replaced by clouds. Crater Lake National Park is in the northeast corner of the image and Mount Shasta in the southeast. Red dots represent fire.

Snow Camp Mountain, on the northwest corner of the fire perimeter, and about 13 miles from the coast, got only .07 inches. Gold Beach and Brooking, on the immediate coast, received .01 and .18 inches, respectively.. The weather station at Red Mound (north and east of Brookings) registered .19 inches.

Quail Prairie Mountain on the western edge of the Kalmiopsis Wilderenss received .12 inches of rain but the exceptionally steep rugged area north of Chetco Bar on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River and in the heart of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness—where fire was first detected on July 12th—got a nice .54 inched of rain.

It’s not unusual for intrepid boaters who run this wildest of rivers to go to bed with a clear starry sky overhead, only to wake to rain part way through the night after reaching this part of the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

Chetco Bar on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness
Chetco Bar on the Wild and Scenic Chetco River, shown here in 2010,. The river’s watershed in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness provides exceptionally clear, clean water to Brookings and Harbor and is some of the steepest, most rugged ground on the West Coast. US Forest Service photo.

While the stark, rocky serpentine terrain that makes up a good bit of the Kalmiopsis may look look more like it belongs in a desert, annual precipitation for the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and it’s large adjacent Roadless Areas (the North and South Kalmiopsis) can receive 80 to 150 inches of precipitation annually.

Chetco Bar Fire on Google Earth
The Chetco Bar fire perimeter from infra red imagery acquired on September 6, 2017, overlaid on Google Earth. The desert-appearing area, surrounded by mixed evergreen forest is the botanically rich serpentine terrain of the Josephine ophiolite. Click image or here for larger image.

The Illinois Valley Airport, near the confluence of Rough and Ready Creek with the West Fork Illinois River—south and east of the active fire—recorded a whooping .83 inches of rain in the 24 hour period. The Rough and Ready Creek watershed and this part of the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area and Kalmiopsis Wilderness are the most dramatic expression of the stark, open serpentine lands of the Josephine ophiolite.

There were also reports of hard rain in Cave Junction but Selma, a little further north, and an area on the Kalmiopsis Rim  near Babyfoot lake only got .14 each.

Finally, Packsaddle Mountain, about 9 miles southeast of Mount Emily and a little more than 2 miles north of the Oregon/California border in Wild and Scenic North Fork Smith River watershed, received a welcome .43 inches, with Gasquet at the confluence of the North Fork Smith with the Middle Fork Smith River in California topping it with .52 inches.

NOAA is predicting a warming and drying trend until the middle of next week when there’s a slight chance of showers. Think rain.

More information on southwest Oregon and northwest California fires at Inciweb

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