April 12, 2001 11:00 pm

From AP and Observer reports

Snow and rain in the past two weeks has splashed a big drop in Oregons depleted water bucket, state scientists say.

The snowpack level was at 45 percent of normal for the entire state on April 1, but by Thursday the level had risen to 59 percent, said Stan Fox, a snow hydrologist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Portland.

The snowpack that affects the Grande Ronde Valley has improved since March at all automated measuring sites.

Beaver Reservoir showed a large increase, going from 65 percent of water in March to 125 percent this month. The percentage at County Line grew from 11 percent to 71 percent of average, and at Mount Howard, the percentage of water

has risen from 65 percent to 82


Snowpack can indicate how much water will be available in the summer for streams, crops, fish and city water supplies.

On Mount Hood, the snow-water equivalent the amount of water that would be released if the snowpack melted instantly stood at 41 inches on Thursday, 5 inches more than on April 1, Fox said.

The higher elevations, even on the east side of the state, as well as the Cascades, are getting some sizable increases in snowpack, Fox said. Hopefully, over the next couple of months, well be having some slightly above-average precipitation that will help out.

State climatologist George Taylor said April normally is the years seventh-wettest month, but its brought above-average precipitation so far. And an inch of rain in November is less valuable for water supplies in the summer than an inch of rain in April, he said.

Snow and rain that fell in November probably are already through the system and back in the ocean, Taylor said. But rain now will help the reservoirs. From a water-supply standpoint, rain at this time of year is very, very valuable.

In Portland, rainfall for April as of Thursday morning stood at 1.22 inches about a quarter-inch above average.

Meantime, a spring storm in the Cascade Range dumped nearly a foot of snow Wednesday night, good news for area ski resorts. Mount Bachelor collected at least 3 inches.

Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, which had 99 inches on April 1, had 128 inches Thursday morning. The ski area received 6 inches of snow Wednesday night, with more forecast for the next few days.

The normal range at this time of year is about 150 inches, lodge manager Mark Vincent said. So were still down a little but catching up quickly.

Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort topped the 100-inch level for the first time this ski season, said marketing director Dave Tragethon.

We received 13 inches of fresh snow on Tuesday and two more inches on Wednesday night, Tragethon said. And its good January powder kind of stuff. So we have better conditions now than we had during the winter.

Taylor, the state climatologist, anticipates the weather will be wetter in the next couple of months, but he stressed that there still will be water shortages in some areas this summer.

In the Rogue, Umpqua and Klamath drainages, for example, snow is holding only about 40 percent of the average amount of moisture for this time of year.

Its virtually impossible now for us to make up for the deficit, but every little bit helps, Taylor said. And I hope we get a lot more little bits in the next few months.