Central Oregon

C.O. snowpack doing OK amid on-off winter

Drier, warmer conditions melt lower-elevation site

It's been a mish-mash of winter for the High Desert so far – some areas seeing little snow, others a whole lot, especially of late. But so far, the snowpack crucial for summer stream flows and water supplies is doing fairly well, especially at higher elevations, according to the latest snow survey numbers, out Thursday.

Overall, the Deschutes and Crooked Rivers Basin is slightly above (103 percent) normal for the snow-water equivalent – that's how much water is in the snow, waiting to be unlocked by spring and summer warmth -- according to automated Snotel monitoring gauges.

Meanwhile, the National Resources Conservation Service conducted its monthly "snow course" survey this week at several fixed spots off the Cascade Lakes Highway, and the lowest figure by far was at the lowest-elevation site. For Hungry Flat, at 4,400 feet elevation, the snow-water equivalent was less than half (48 percent) of the 30-year average.

But the situation was much better higher up – at Tangent, across from Wanoga Sno-Park, the measurement at 5,400 feet elevation was 96 percent of average snow-water equivalent for this point in the year.

However, at New Dutchman (by Dutchman Flat, the highest spot, at 6,320 feet elevation), the warmer, drier weeks of late have put the snowpack at 11 percent below average (89 percent of the 30-year average).

Elsewhere, most basins across the state are either close to or above average in snowpack, but there are trouble spots -- in Eastern Oregon, the Malheur Basin is at only 72 percent of average snowpack, worst in the state, while others along the eastern border and the Klamath Basin also are notably below average for the end of January.

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