Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


USDA says Oregon's snowpack at record-low levels

Share

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF USDA NRCS - This map shows Oregon's Snow Water Equivalent percentage of normal as of Feb 6. The snow water equivalent represents the depth of water in the snowpack expressed in inches if the snowpack were melted.For the second consecutive year, Oregon’s mountains have record-low snowpack levels, according to the latest snow survey data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

All that rain? Well, it’s not turning into snow because of the warm temperatures, natural resources service officials said. As a result, 44 of 110 long-term snow monitoring sites in Oregon measured record or near-record low levels for snowpack on Feb. 1. Some areas were snow-free for the first time on record.

“It’s been a warm and rainy winter in the Oregon mountains this year,” said Melissa Webb, a hydrologist with the NRCS Oregon snow survey team. “Most of our sites in the Cascade and Siskiyou Mountains are measuring record low snowpack levels right now. There is grass growing in areas that are normally buried under many feet of snow.

“There is still time for improvement in our snowpack, but at this point, a full recovery is unlikely.”

Without significant snowfall in February and March, NRCS hyrologists predict that streams and rivers typically fed by snowmelt will experience well-below-normal flows this summer.

“Winter rainfall can help improve reservoir storage and increase streamflows during storms, but it has little effect on streamflow later in the season,” Webb said. “We depend on the snowmelt to provide a steady water supply over the summer months. While winter rain does help, it doesn’t provide the same level of certainty as having a known quantity of frozen water stored in the mountain snowpack.”

The NRCS Snow Survey is the federal program that measures snow and provides streamflow forecasts and snowpack data across the West. In Oregon, NRCS collects snow measurements from 81 sites.

The latest information on Oregon’s streamflow forecasts can be found at www.or.nrcs.usda.gov/snow.

This map shows Oregon’s Snow Water Equivalent percentage of normal as of Feb 6. The snow water equivalent represents the depth of water in the snowpack expressed in inches if the snowpack were melted.