Snowpack concerns keep piling up

Updated reports show snowpack levels are dwindling in most areas of the state, raising worries about water supplies later in the year.
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Updated reports show snowpack levels are dwindling in most areas of the state, raising worries about water supplies later in the year.

Crosscut reported in early February on the dwindling snowpack in the mountains, and the latest Basin Outlook Report shows why concern is mounting about water supplies this summer.

The Outlook, which compiles reports from instruments around the state called Snotels, said an obvious lack of precipitation 'ꀜhas caused low and mid-elevation snowpacks to dwindle in all areas of the state.'ꀝ Long-range weather forecasts are for a continued warm and dry pattern over the region, despite cool and rainy days in the next week or so.

Another indication of the lack of snow comes from Spokane. The Spokane Airport appears to have set a record for the least snowy winter since records began in 1947, the Outlook said, with only 13.7 total inches. But don'ꀙt put it in the record books yet. Spokane needs only another half inch or better to nullify this record.

Statewide, snowpack was 70% of average, down from 74% a month ago. The Green and Tolt rivers reported the lowest readings at 32% of average. Readings from the Conconully basin, in the north-central part of the state, reported the highest at 106% of average. 'ꀜWestside averages from Snotel, and March 1 snow surveys, included the North Puget Sound river basins with 69% of average, the Central Puget Sound river basins with 41%, and the Lewis-Cowlitz basins with 70% of average,'ꀝ the report said. 'ꀜSnowpack along the east slopes of the Cascade Mountains included the Yakima area with 74% and the Wenatchee area with 81%. Snowpack in the Spokane River Basin was at 52% and the Walla Walla River Basin had 68% of average.'ꀝ

Seattle may be breathing a bit easier than other areas. The maximum snow cover in Washington was at a Snotel site near Ross Lake with water content of 44.9 inches. But the site would normally have 53.4 inches of water content on March 1.

This is a regional situation. In Oregon, with the typical snow accumulation period almost over, the snowpack across the Beaver state was only 60 percent of average, as measured by 73 Snotel sites there.

In British Columbia, the government said snow conditions vary across the province, 'ꀜranging from well below normal across the South Coast and the Interior to near normal in the Central Interior, to above normal in the north.'ꀝ As of March 1 the province said over 80 percent of the peak snowpack across the province is in place. Translation? Remember the Winter Olympics, with lots of snow at Whistler and no snow at Cypress Mountain.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Stephen H. Dunphy

Stephen H. Dunphy

Stephen H. Dunphy writes on business and economic issues for Crosscut. He was a business editor and columnist for a number of years at The Seattle Times.