Home News Local News Snowpack rebounds
Storms in the last half of January increased the snowpack from 50 percent to 80 percent of normal, a hopeful sign for the rest of the season.
"The snow was coming down in huge bushel baskets at Meacham and Tollgate on Wednesday when we took measurements," said Mike Burton, district conservationist with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in La Grande.
Measurement at Meacham showed a snow depth of 18.5 inches and 4.8 inches of water content. At Tollgate, the snow depth was 67.9 inches with 18.3 inches of water.
Because the snow was fluffy and powdery, "the snow's water density at both sites was at 26 percent," said Burton.
Regionally, the snowpack has topped the 80 percent threshold across the Imnaha, Burnt River, Powder and Grande Ronde basins, all sub-watersheds of the Snake River. That's a healthy rebound, and statistically there's more to come.
"February and March are our biggest water months of the year," said Burton.
"Last year, even April was up in snowpack and weather forecasters are predicting a similar pattern this year. As La Nina wanes during these months, it re-directs storms over Oregon, giving us late moisture."
Moisture on the valley floor, however, has not been so healthy.
Ranchers and farmers who do dry farming are especially concerned that any future snow accumulation on the frozen valley floor will simply run off into nearby streams and not give the soil the moisture it needs to produce good yields.
Also, the elk and deer tend to come down to their fields, foraging and trampling their winter wheat crops.
"The water and snow does not equally distribute itselfeven in our area," said Burton, "The southern counties of Oregon haven't rebounded so much, but the area north of Bend has seen the greatest benefit from the recent storm systems."
Burton said the snowpack increase seen in our region of the state is a reasonable one for this time of year.
"In large part, we're optimistic about the snowpack, and in terms of weather predictions, it's falling in line," said Burton. "It's no time to hit the panic button yet."