How dry we are

February 26, 2001 11:00 pm
Below normal: Mike Burton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Lisa Krieger, hydrology technician for Bureau of Reclamation, measure the snows depth and water content near Meacham Monday.  (The Observer/Erin Witten).
Below normal: Mike Burton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Lisa Krieger, hydrology technician for Bureau of Reclamation, measure the snows depth and water content near Meacham Monday. (The Observer/Erin Witten).

By The Observer

Its a beautiful, sunny day in the neighborhood.

But Mike Burton of the Natural Resources Conservation Service isnt happy. Hed rather see heavy wet clouds producing wet snow.

Today is a beautiful day, but with this kind of weather, were not getting our snow and water, he said.

Burton returned Monday evening from a day of measuring the snows depth and water content at various places above the Grande Ronde Basin. At Meacham he found 15 inches of snow, which translates into 6.6 inches of water, only 75 percent of normal. At Tollgate, the situation is a bit better, with the water content at 88 percent of normal. Basin-wide, the water content is at 66 percent of normal while the total precipitation is at 63 percent of normal.

The best snow month is yet to come, Burton said. March, historically, produces the heaviest, wettest snow of the winter. For the region to reach normal, the snow must fall much more often than usual next month.

Its not usually the case that we can catch up when were this far behind, he said. March snow would have to be much heavier and wetter than usual.

Even the higher areas of the Wallowa Mountains have less snow with less water content. At Mount Howard, the water content is at 82 percent of average, with 56 percent of average precipitation, and at Aneroid Lake, the water content is only 67 percent of normal and the depth at 54 percent.

Light snow and low water content translate to less water from runoff into the rivers and tributaries of the Grande Ronde Basin. Last summer, after a winter of average water content and snowfall, dry conditions helped to lower the water level in the Grande Ronde River. Some growers found that the water was too low for their pumps to function.

Burton said there is only about a 5 percent chance that the area will get enough snow in March to bring the water content up to normal conditions.