Much to the delight of recreation and water managers, springlike weather in early February has been replaced by late winter storms carrying enough snow to ease some worries about a woeful snowpack in the Cascades.
A snowpack once registering 41 percent of normal earlier in the Rogue and Umpqua Basins on Feb. 1, has made a dramatic turnaround, according to numbers from The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Meteorologist Marc Stilde of the National Weather Service in Medford said the weather has been coming out of Alaska and that’s kept temperatures lower than normal.
“Every time we get a disturbance, it reinforces the cold air and we get some rain and snow showers in the valley,” Stilde said. “A lot of places got some snow over the last week-and-a-half that normally don’t see it, even some on the coast.”
Stilde said there continues to be a strong ridge in the Pacific, that’s causing the systems to move over the top of it, and that unleashes the cold air into the Pacific Northwest.
“We’ve been running temperatures below normal, since the tenth of February, and there’s only been one day that the temperature was above normal,” he said.
In the last 18 days of February, Roseburg received 2.52 inches of precipitation, after zero for the first 10 days of the month. The average for February is 3.95 inches.
The good news for Douglas County Watermaster Susan Douthit, is that the snowpack has improved — significantly in some places.
Douthit said she is pleased to see the snow falling in the mountains, but the county still has a lot to make up, and some places haven’t fared so well.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Douthit said.
The Berry Creek Reservoir is full but Galesville is 21 feet below the top, Douthit said.
“There is still time to make that up, and we’ve got a wet trend, so we’ll keep our finger crossed,” she said. We’re certainly enjoying the wet weather, but I’ll be much happier if Galesville fills.”
Douthit said the county was not legally able to start capturing water behind the Galesville Dam until Feb. 1, but even after that date, the amount of water coming in, was not as much as the amount that they were required to release downstream. So the reservoir had not been filling.
The county’s snow survey on King Mountain south of Galesville Reservoir showed 30.5 inches of snow at the end of February, compared yo 57 inches last year at the same time, But the water content this year was only about 6 inches compared to about 21 inches of water content last year, and the big difference she said, is that this year it’s been dry snow, with not a lot of moisture in it.
On Feb. 14, Crater Lake National Park officials reported 43 inches of snow, which was just 43 percent of average. But Friday morning, they reported 89 inches of snow, now up to 81 percent of average, and more snow expected in the next few days. And the cold weather has helped solidify the snowpack so it won’t melt as fast.
“But I am cautiously optimistic,” Douthit said. “A lot of it has to do with how much we can get in that reservoir.”
It’s still going to be a while before nighttime temperatures warm up. Forecasts call for the overnight temperatures to be in the 30s to low 40s for central Douglas County for the next two weeks. But daytime temperatures could get into the 60s by next week and the precipitation should start slacking off next week.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but the temperatures will remain below average,” Stilde said.