Snowpack off to sluggish start

By Jayson Jacoby / The Baker City Herald

By JAYSON JACOBY

jjacoby@bakercityherald.com

The whole lot of nothing that has fallen from the sky over the past month is starting to add up.

So to speak.

The deficit in Northeastern Oregon's mountain snowpack is growing with each dry day.

Based on statistics from 16 automated snow-measuring sites, the water content in the snow is barely half of average.

The snowpack looks skimpier still when compared with conditions a year

ago. Then, the water content was about 26 percent above average for the

first week of January.

Here's another way to gauge the snow scarcity:

As of today, just two of the 16 measuring sites had a water content

exceeding 7 inches - Milk Shakes, which is in the northern Blue

Mountains just south of the Washington border, and Schneider Meadow in

the southern Wallowas near Fish Lake.

A year ago, by contrast, nine of the 16 sites had more than 7 inches of

water content - and of the seven others, five were between 6 and 7

inches.

The situation isn't quite so dire, though, as the numbers suggest.

For one thing, it's still relatively early in the snowpack season.

Typically, Northeastern Oregon accumulates more snow in the second half of the winter than in the first.

The water content at most sites peaks between mid-March and mid-April.

Second, meteorologists have concluded that La Nina conditions exist

this winter - cooler than average surface water in the Pacific Ocean -

and that generally results in wetter, colder weather in this region.

Fortunately, enough snow fell in November to enable Anthony Lakes Ski Area to make a rare, day-after-Thanksgiving opening.

And local reservoirs are still storing a fair amount of water thanks to last winter's abundant snowpack.

CLICKABLE MAP of Oregon snow-measuring sites: www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/maps/oregon_sitemap.html

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