Snowpack low, but new storm on the way

November 30, 2013
Snowpack low, but new storm on the way

Cascades could see more than 2 feet of snow between Sunday and Tuesday

By Scott Hammers

Snowpacks across Central Oregon and most of the state are lagging behind historic averages, but a storm moving into the region late Sunday is likely to deliver the first heavy snows of the season.

As of Friday, snowpack records kept by the National Resources Conservation Service placed the Upper Deschutes/Crooked River Basin at 39 percent of average for the date.

The snow survey uses a combination of automated and in-person measurements to determine the water content of snow on the ground. The information is useful to irrigators, who depend on melting winter snows to fill the reservoirs that supply water through the summer growing season.

Snowpacks are below average in every part of the state but the far northeast corner, where the Grand Ronde, Powder, Burt, Imnaha Rivers Basin is at 108 percent of average. The Klamath Basin trails all others, with a snowpack of just 18 percent of average.

Historically, January has been the snowiest month as measured by the NRCS, with snowpacks typically reaching their peak in mid-March.

Marilyn Lohmann, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pendleton, said the incoming storm is expected to drop more than 2 feet of snow in the Cascades from Washington to the California border between Sunday and Tuesday. Bend and Redmond are likely to see rain initially, Lohmann said, but could pick up 1 to 2 inches of snow Monday and Tuesday.

“It looks like a really good producer for the mountains, maybe not so much for the lower elevations,” she said.

Lohmann said the weather is expected to take a sharp turn on Wednesday, with clear skies and nighttime lows dropping to zero or below. Another moisture-rich storm system is expected to arrive next weekend.

Local ski areas should get a boost from the upcoming storm. As of Friday, Mt. Bachelor was reporting 18 inches of snow at the base, and had opened the Pine Marten, Skyliner and Sunrise lifts for the first time this season. The Hoodoo Ski Area has just 5 inches at the base and is waiting on more snow before announcing an opening date.

Peter Murphy, spokesman with the Oregon Department of Transportation, said his agency is not expecting traffic on the passes leading in and out of Central Oregon to be particularly heavy when the snow starts falling, as Thanksgiving travelers typically spread out their return trips over several days.

Murphy said although there’s been little snowfall on the passes so far this year, ODOT has plowing and sanding crews standing by for when the weather turns.

“We’re ready for anything, that’s the thing — we have crews that live up on both Mount Hood and Santiam, we have people that are already in position and keeping an eye out for the weather,” he said.

Drivers traveling south of Bend or over the Mount Hood, Santiam or Willamette passes are required to use traction tires or carry chains.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,

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