Snowpack lags as spring nears

Where snow blocks the road at Huddleston Snow Shelter south of Prairie City, the sky gleams a bright blue on a mid-winter day. The Eagle/DAVID CARKHUFF

SALEM - Water shortages are expected in all basins of Oregon this spring and summer, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Water Supply Outlook Report for March 1.

"The storms of February didn't bring any substantial increase to the mountain snowpack; in fact, all basins except the Umatilla, Hood River and Willamette showed a decrease in the snowpack percentages from last month," the report stated. " As of March 1, the snowpack in the mountains of Oregon ranged between 35 percent of average in the Willamette and 69 percent of average in the northeast corner of the state.

"Generally, by March 1, between 80 and 85 percent of the maximum snowpack is on the ground. Having a near normal snowpack in the

mountains of Oregon is becoming less and less of a possibility with each passing day. Last year as of March 1, the snowpack in the mountains of Oregon was between 94 and 140 percent of average."

NRCS warned of possible water shortages for some water users due to precipitation that only measured 79 percent of average on Feb. 1 in the Upper John Day Basin. Streamflow forecasts for the coming spring and summer months varied from 43 percent of average on Camas Creek to 73 percent of average on Mountain Creek, NRCS reported.

The Columbia Basin snowpack index decreased to 74 percent on March 1, compared to 78 percent on Feb. 1 and 107 percent last year. Looking at the sub-basins above The Dalles, the snowpack above Castlegar decreased 9 percent to 72 percent, the snowpack above Grand Coulee decreased 6 percent to 72 percent, while the Snake River snowpack above Ice Harbor decreased 2 percent to 80 percent.

As a rule, most sub-basin snowpack percentages decreased from the Feb. 1 values. As an exception, the snowpack in the northeastern Oregon mountains increased 11 percent and the southern Clearwater Basin increased 3 percent. The percent of peak index at The Dalles increased from 52 percent to 63 percent. It's uncertain how much of an impact recent heavy snowstorms will have on this year's water supply; however, there's very little chance that the total basin snowpack will approach average this year, NRCS reported. For more information about local conditions, call 575-0135.

Basinwide snowpack

(as of March 10)

Basin/siteLast year*Avg.*

John Day, North Fork6359

Anthony Lakes8479

Arbuckle Mountain86 68

Blue Mountain Springs64 58

County Line30 37

Gold Center4449

Lucky Strike3122

Madison Butte3433

Tipton6263

John Day above Dayville4950

Starr Ridge 2842

Malheur River 2838

Basinwide moisture

Basin/siteSW**Precip.

Mt. Hood6274

Bachelor Butte6371

Anthony Lakes6976

* Snowpack expressed as percentages of 2002 and average.

** Snow-water equivalent, precipitation expressed as

percentages of 2002, average.

SOURCE: Natural Resources Conservation Service

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