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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow SNOW LEVELS BELOW AVERAGE

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SNOW LEVELS BELOW AVERAGE

Where's the snow? Lisa Krieger, left, of the Bureau of Reclamation, takes dirt from the tube used to measure the snow and its water content, while Mike Burton holds the other end. The two were measuring snow at Meacham. (The Observer/ALICE PERRY LINKER).
Where's the snow? Lisa Krieger, left, of the Bureau of Reclamation, takes dirt from the tube used to measure the snow and its water content, while Mike Burton holds the other end. The two were measuring snow at Meacham. (The Observer/ALICE PERRY LINKER).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

There was evidence of snowshoe hares in the mountains near Tollgate Monday but less evidence of deep snow.

During the next-to-the last snow measurement of the 2002-03 season, Mike Burton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service found 52 inches of snow and about 21 inches of water — 77 percent of normal.

Near the data-collection site, he saw snowshoe hare droppings and places where the cold-loving animals had chewed needles from low-growing trees.

As low as the snow water content is near Tollgate, the measurements near Meacham are worse. There, in the area designated for measuring, are patches of bare ground.

The NRCS team records data at five designated sites in one specific area to get information as accurate as possible for snow water calculations.

Only two of the Meacham sites could be measured. The average snow depth in the area was 3.4 inches, with 1.2 inches of water. Normally in March, 17 inches of snow, with 6.6 inches of water, are recorded at Meacham.

Rain drizzled from time to time during the day, and the ground at both

Meacham and Tollgate appeared saturated, meaning that the water is already beginning to run off, Burton said.

The greater the runoff early in the spring, the less water remains stored in the snow and available for irrigation in late summer.

Burton and Lisa Krieger of the Pendleton office of the Bureau of Reclamation take manual measurements the old-fashioned way each month at Tollgate and Meacham. The last collection at Meacham comes in March, but they will collect data in May at Tollgate.

At locations higher in the mountains, data is collected automatically and reported hourly by computer.

Burton said snow at the higher elevations contains water that is closer to normal, although some areas vary widely. At Mount Howard in the Wallowa Mountains the snow water measured 120 percent of normal, while Aneroid Lake, also in the Wallowas, measured only 85 to 88 percent.

The lower the elevation, the lower the snow water content, Burton said.

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