Christmas delivered bounty to the mountains

By Jayson Jacoby January 07, 2013 11:43 am

By Jayson Jacoby

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The snowpack in Northeastern Oregon’s mountains isn’t setting any records.

But this isn’t a bad thing.

In mid-December the snowpack, which is the region’s largest reservoir of water for irrigation, recreation and, of course, drinking, was noteworthy for its scarcity rather than its abundance.

But a pair of storms, one just before Christmas, the other on the holiday itself, brought the snowpack to a more respectable level.

And the chilly weather that has prevailed since has prevented any of the newfound gains from trickling away prematurely.

For the area that takes in the Burnt, Powder, Pine, Imnaha and Grande Ronde basins, the water content of the snowpack (a measurement more meaningful than the snow depth) is about 74 percent of the 30-year average.

The water content was less than half of average earlier in December.

The middling figures are no great cause for concern, though, as it’s early in the snowpack season.

In most years the majority of the snowpack accumulates during February, March and, at the higher elevations, well into April.

Updated data are available online at http://www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/

A PEEK AT THE PACK 

A sampling of snowpack statistics from automated measuring sites:

EILERTSON MEADOW (Elkhorns)

WATER CONTENT

3.7 inches — 67% of average                  (last year: 4.3 inches)

BOURNE (Elkhorns)

WATER CONTENT

5.2 inches — 64% of average                  (last year: 4.5 inches)

GOLD CENTER (Elkhorns)

WATER CONTENT

4.8 inches — 91% of average                  (last year: 3.2 inches)

ANEROID LAKE (Wallowas)

WATER CONTENT

11.8 inches — 115% of average                  (last year: 5.4 inches)

SCHNEIDER MEADOWS (Wallowas)

WATER CONTENT

9.0 inches — 63% of average                  (last year: 9.1 inches)

TIPTON (Blue Mountains)

WATER CONTENT

4.8 inches — 79% of average                  (last year: 2.4 inches)

— Source: U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service