Storm helps restore mountain snowpack

April 11, 2001 11:00 pm

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

Mother Nature cant make up for a winters worth of dry days with a single spring storm.

But a couple of April blizzards can punch a substantial hole in the deficit.

Winter-like weather over the past week has bumped Northeastern Oregons snowpack much nearer to normal than its been this year.

The overall figure for the Powder, Grande Ronde, Burnt and Imnaha basins as of this morning was 67 percent of the long-term average as high as its been since early winter.

Two weeks ago the regions snowpack was about 55 percent of average.

I had been saying that every little bit helps, said Greg Kuehl, who works at the Baker City office of the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the agency that keeps track of the snowpack.

Recent snowfall was a big help, he said.

Just how much this months storms have helped is evident in the statistics from a few Snotels scattered across Northeastern Oregon.

Snotels are automated machines that weigh the snow piled atop a pillow filled with an anti-freeze liquid. Computers calculate the snows water content, and every morning a radio transmitter sends the data to a Portland office.

At Eilertson Meadow, along Rock Creek in the Elkhorn Mountains west of Haines, the water content on April 1 was 3.2 inches, 33 percent of average.

As of this morning the water content was 4 inches, or 51 percent of average.

Snowpacks are even closer to average at the north end of the Elkhorns and in the Wallowa Mountains.

The only Snotel in the region with an above-average water content is at Beaver Reservoir, in the La Grande watershed north of Anthony Lakes.

The water content there is 7.2 inches, 116 percent of average.

At Schneider Meadows north of Halfway, the water content has risen from an April 1 reading of 14.7 inches (58 percent of average) to 17.4 inches (73 percent).

Kuehl cautions that late-season changes in the snowpacks percent of average can be a bit misleading.

Normally, by mid-April the snowpack is melting, rather than growing, he said.

As a result, when snow does accumulate at this relatively late date, it significantly boosts the percentage of average.

Were still well below average, Kuehl said.

Nonetheless, his every little bit helps saying is a valid one, said Stan Fox, who works at the state snow survey office in Portland.

Whenever we get (snow) it is good, Fox said. This will melt later in the spring and summer, and thats when its really going to be needed.

Snowpack data for all of Oregon is updated daily at the Natural Resources Conservation Services Internet site at: ftp://ftp.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/data/snow/update/or.txt.