Over the heat wave, but still in a drought

Image: KPTV

BATTLE GROUND, WA (KPTV) - Farmers recovering from last month's historic heat wave are still dealing with significant drought conditions across most of Oregon and Washington.

Governor Jay Inslee made the emergency drought declaration for Washington on Wednesday, calling this summer "the summer of climate change" in an afternoon news conference.

The emergency declaration covers all of Washington except for the Seattle, Tacoma and Everett metro areas.

Berry farmers have already had a rough start to the picking season with the timing of the June heat wave. The owners of Indigo Acres Blueberry Farm in Battle Ground estimate about a quarter of their ripe crop withered in the extreme temperatures despite nonstop watering. Berries wilted and leaves battered by full sun were singed brown.

"It just came in and it really just scorched everything," Indigo Acres owner Kristy Ralphs said. "It was difficult but I've heard a lot of people got hit a lot harder-- lost 50 or 60 percent of their crop."

Ralphs says they were able to run their sprinklers for three straight days to save most of their berries during the heat wave. That's possible, she says, because their irrigation water comes from a well.

"Farmers that aren't [on a well], that are city rights or have to pay for that, if we had to pay for that I mean we couldn't have afforded to run our sprinklers for three days," Ralphs said.

Ralphs told FOX 12 she believes Gov. Inslee made the right call issuing the drought declaration to help protect farmers.

"It brings relief, and he's able to put orders in place that then can be a resource for people rather than us sitting around saying what are we going to do," Ralphs said.

And while Indigo Acres still has plenty of plump berries for picking this summer, the bigger question facing farmers is what to do if summers continue to get hotter and drier.

"I would imagine we'd have to shift how we water and how we get ready for the season," Ralphs said, adding that some farmers with limited shade might have to think about constructing shelters over their crop fields.

Berry farmers say the changing, warming climate is also shortening the berry picking season, so you may want to consider heading out to your favorite farms a little bit earlier in the summer.

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