It was last year when the South Umpqua Basin in Southern Douglas County had 294 percent of normal snowpack.
What a difference a year makes.
So far this year, it’s at 31 percent of normal, and that has state officials concerned about how much water will be available this summer.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service figures show the North Umpqua Basin with a snowpack of 42 percent of normal as of Feb. 1, and last year at this time, it measured 154 percent of normal. And that’s despite starting out ahead of normal for November. In order for the snowpack to catch up to normal levels by April 1, the next two months will require 125 to 225 percent of above average snowfall, according to the agency.
Jaime Harvey of Roseburg drives Highway 138E over the pass a couple of times a week to Chiloquin and Klamath Falls and for this time of year, he said the snow is pretty scarce.
“There is little to no snow at Diamond Lake, it’s pretty crazy, just not normal,” he said. “I like the driving conditions, very little ice on the side of the road and dry pavement. But I’d rather see the snow, plus it’s more fun to play in the snow.”
Jaime Harvey, whose job requires extensive traveling throughout the state, enjoyed a rare time when he could hit softballs to his daughter Lucy, 9, and his wife, Lezlie. While they enjoyed the sunny, pleasant conditions for a Thursday evening in February.
There is hope, though, that the snowpack will improve some. The long-range forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center indicates cooler and wetter than normal conditions through most of Oregon over the next three months, said Brett Lutz, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Medford.
Lutz said it’s highly unlikely that the big deficit will be made up during that time but the storms should at least help.
“Most likely we won’t make it up, there’s about a 30-percent chance that Crater Lake will make it up,” Lutz said.
The West Coast is in the middle of a weak La Nina weather pattern, similar to the 2013-14 snow year, when, about this time in February, weather conditions turned colder and wetter. Lutz is expecting the same to happen this year, although he’s not sure how much precipitation will come with the weather systems. The first one is poised to come in early next week that should lower the temperatures down to closer to normal, and bring rain to the valleys and some snow to the higher elevations.
“What we’ve seen so far this year, is that the high-pressure ridge has been shifted too far toward the coast, so it’s done more blocking of the storms and sent them off to the central and eastern U.S. and northern Rockies,” Lutz said. “The Rockies is one place where the snowpack has been pretty good.
“We’re still waiting to see that definitive turn to something wetter,” he said. “We’ll see how things develop with this system coming down early next week, which does start to shift the pattern.”
Figures from the conservation service show January precipitation was 77 percent of average, with the streamflow forecast in the Umpqua and Rogue Basins ranging from 50 percent to 92 percent of average. Federal hydrologists said if conditions remain similar, water supplies in the basins are likely to be from below normal, to well below normal this summer.
Roseburg tied the record high temperature at the airport on Tuesday with 65 degrees, matching the high set in 1945 and 1958. Thursday also saw a 65-degree temperature in Roseburg but the record was 72 degrees for that day, set back in 1963.