Winter Got Its Act Together for Inland Northwest

By Tom Bacon

A nearly endless string of Pineapple Express frontal systems last month whipping through Oregon, Washington and Idaho was just the ticket for puny snowpacks and parched lowlands. But in all three states, there's still quite a discrepancy between the "haves" and the "have-nots."

For example, Washington's Cascade range got walloped by snowfall last month to the point that snowpack levels there are just about normal, meaning that forecasts for spring and summer runoff have jumped considerably from just the month before.

But in Oregon, four counties in the southern part of the state have been declared drought emergency areas, and more areas will likely follow unless March precipitation increases dramatically. Hydrologists said that more half of Oregon's remote snow measuring stations doubled the amount of snow on the ground during February, but the boost was not enough to reach normal March 1st snow levels.

Specialists with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said the southwest region of Oregon has the lowest  snow levels on record for this time of year.

In Idaho, the February storms delivered more than twice the normal monthly amounts to several, mostly northern Idaho, drainage basins. Some of the upper Snake River tributaries have the most snow since 1999, meaning that summer streamflows may thunder down river at 145 percent of average. But in the usually parched Owyhee basin of southwestern IDaho, the outlook is still grim with only about 15 to 30 percent of average runoff.

Long range spring and summer forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center suggest a chance of above normal temperatures this year with an uncertain outlook for more precipitation as the weather warms up.
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