Survey says: Snow level ‘nearly normal’ – December 29, 2006

Survey says: Snow level ‘nearly normal’

Mail Tribune

Medford, Oregon
By PAUL FATTIG
December 29, 2006
Winter snowpack is an important measure of the coming water year
ASHLAND — “Nearly normal” sums up the first snow survey of the winter at the Siskiyou Summit.
The snow level on Thursday at the 4,600-foot elevation snow survey site was 12 inches, just below the 13-inch average for the end of December, according to Steve Johnson, snow ranger for the Ashland Ranger District in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
The snow’s water content is 2.8 inches, barely below the 2.9-inch average at this time of year, he said. That makes it 92 percent and 96 percent of average, respectively.
“It’s not quite normal with snow and water content, but there has been good saturation in the mountains,” Johnson said. “If you have saturated ground by now, it’s a good start on the year.”
The winter snowpack is an important measurement of the coming water year, providing a bank of water for summer streamflows and reservoir storage. The U.S. Forest Service works with the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service in measuring the snow survey sites.
Although the snowpack at that elevation is a bit below average for the end of December, the precipitation in the Rogue-Umpqua Basin is 125 percent of normal, Johnson observed. The Klamath Basin precipitation is 121 percent of normal, he added.
“The basins look good as a whole,” he said.
Up at Crater Lake National Park, the snowpack was 72 inches at park headquarters on Thursday. The average for the site, at 6,400 feet in elevation, is 62 inches for Dec. 29, according to park records.
The snowpack atop Mount Ashland, elevation 7,500 feet, is 71 inches. Last year at this time the snow was 75 inches deep on top of the peak.
At the Siskiyou Summit site, the record for the end of December is 52 inches of snow measured in 1965. However, there have been half a dozen times when there was no snow at the site during the first measurement of the year.
Historically, it is the only one of the four snow measurement sites in this forest that is physically measured in December. The three newer sites, all at 6,000 feet elevation or higher, are measured at the end of January, February, March and April.
The Siskiyou Summit snow survey site is the oldest, established in 1935.
“It’s still way too early to predict,” Johnson said of the coming water year. “It is a good start. But anything could happen between now and the end of April.”
Meanwhile, the National Weather Service is calling for rain in the valleys and snow in the mountains beginning Sunday and continuing through Wednesday.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or at pfattig@mailtribune.com

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