The brown patches on the mountains tell the tale more blatantly, if not quite so precisely, as a table of numbers.
But however you measure it, the snowpack in Northeastern Oregon — the biggest source of water for irrigation and recreation in the region — is well below average as the year approaches its end.
The snow season, however, is just beginning.
The Northeastern Oregon snowpack typically peaks in March, and it’s not uncommon for a series of midwinter storms to boost a sparse pack to near or even above average.
Indeed, the National Weather Service is forecasting significant snowfall for the higher elevations of the region later this week.
More than a foot of snow could fall in the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains Tuesday and Wednesday.
Wes Morgan, manager of the Burnt River Irrigation District in southern Baker County, said that although he’d prefer a more robust snowpack, it’s too early to be especially worried about summer water supplies.
“There’s lots of winter left,” Morgan said. “It’s way too early to predict.”