One snowy week boosts snowpack

February 3, 2013
One snowy week boosts snowpack

But February is the critical month, experts say

By Dylan J. Darling

A snow dump in the last week of January in the Cascades helped boost Central Oregon snowpack numbers back above normal for this time of year.

“It was definitely an impressive storm," said Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Portland.

While the storm didn't drop any snow on Bend, it did cover the nearby mountains. As of Jan. 24 the snowpack for the Deschutes/Crooked River Basin was 93 percent of normal. After the storm swept through the Central Oregon high country, the snowpack Thursday was up to 103 percent of normal.

So far this winter's rain and snowfall has been sporadic, said Jeremy Giffin, watermaster for the Oregon Water Resources Department in Bend

“(It's) not as steady as I'd like to see," he said.

Giffin is in charge of regulating flows from reservoirs around Central Oregon to meet the demands of growers and ranchers.

The last three-plus weeks were pretty dry in Central Oregon, prompting Giffin to cut releases late last week from Wickiup Reservoir upstream of Bend. By letting less water down the river, more is staying in the reservoir. He said there is still plenty of water in the Central Oregon reservoirs — Wickiup was 90 percent full as of Friday — but he may have to keep trimming releases if the weather stays sunny.

While pleasant, the sunshine since the snowstorm is not the weather needed for boosting water supplies this month.

“February is a critical snowpack month," Giffin said, “so we like to see the snow falling in February."

Despite his hopes, snow isn't in the immediate forecast for Central Oregon.

Today should be mostly sunny in Bend, with a high of 51 degrees, and Monday should be partly sunny with a high of 49. Snow could be coming to town later this week, though.

The snow level is expected to be as high as 5,000 feet Wednesday, but then drop to between 3,500 and 4,000 Thursday, said Diann Coonfield, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pendleton. Bend is at 3,623 feet. “(The) weather is coming out of the north, northwest," she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,

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