Getting in Deep

Written by Jayson Jacoby April 02, 2014 08:46 am

Snowpack Gains Ground


S. John Collins/Baker City Herald This March photograph reveals the high peaks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness laden with snow that could help ease concerns about severe summertime drought.
S. John Collins/Baker City Herald This March photograph reveals the high peaks in the Eagle Cap Wilderness laden with snow that could help ease concerns about severe summertime drought.

By Jayson Jacoby

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Northeastern Oregon’s mountain snowpack hasn’t made up for its sluggish start.

But it has turned a major deficit into a minor one.

After the fifth-driest autumn on record, and a similarly arid January, the region’s snowpack was about 32 percent below average.

The dramatic shift in the weather pattern that started around the first of February, though, has nearly made good those early shortfalls.

A series of storms has boosted the water content in the snowpack, as measured at 16 sites, most in the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains, to just 8 percent below average.

And that figure underestimates the snowpack slightly, as the overall average is held down by a couple of lower-elevation measuring sites.

Neither of those sites — Dooley Mountain south of Baker City and Little Antone along the Anthony Lakes Highway — is much of a bellwether when it comes to forecasting the summer water supply.

The more meaningful numbers come from the higher peaks of the Elkhorns and Wallowas, where snow lingers past the solstice.

And up there the outlook is much more promising.

At Anthony Lakes, for instance, the highest measuring station in the Elkhorns at 7,125 feet, the water content is 26.5 inches, 2 percent above average.

Or rather, it was 26.5 inches on Thursday, when surveyors from the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service took the monthly measurement.

Several more inches of snow have fallen there since.

In the Wallowas, meanwhile, the water content is 50 percent above average at Mount Howard, just east of Wallowa Lake, and 21 percent above average at Moss Springs above Cove.

In the southern Wallowas, where the snowpack feeds the Eagle Creek and Pine Creek drainages, the water content at Schneider Meadows north of Halfway is 15 percent below average — a significant improvement from early and mid winter.