Oregon snowpack below average

December 15, 2012
Oregon snowpack below average

Accumulation predicted this weekend

By Scott Hammers 

Winter, officially one week away, is headed for a sluggish start all across Oregon, with snowpack levels well below average though mid-December.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tracks snowpack levels day-by-day throughout the winter.

Intended as a way of projecting how much irrigation water will be available during the growing season, the NRCS figures measure the water content of the snow on the ground.

Compared against a 30-year average, snowpacks in the Deschutes/Crooked River Basin were at 62 percent of average for the date as of Friday. The Lake County/Goose Lake Basin is closest to the norm at 81 percent of average, while the Owyhee Basin in the far southeast corner of the state is worst off at just 28 percent of average.

A low snowpack at this point in the season is not necessarily cause for concern. Three of the last four years have trailed below the average for most of the winter, only to jump ahead on account of heavy late-season snows.

Forecasts by the National Weather Service are predicting fairly steady snowfall through Sunday night in Central Oregon, with snow continuing in smaller amounts through the end of the week.

Bend is expected to see a few inches of snow today and tonight, though accumulations should be considerably greater at higher elevations. At Mt. Bachelor, NWS forecasts anticipate accumulations of 15 to 27 inches from today through Sunday night.

Slightly lower elevations, where accumulations are key to the region's irrigation prospects, could see significant snow as well. Eight to 13 inches are expected at Wickiup Reservoir over the same time period. Less accumulation is expected in the Crooked River portion of the basin, with the highest elevations in the Ochocos expected to receive 6 to 9 inches of snow.

− Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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