Winter Precipitation Lags Even With February Storms

By Tom Bacon

Given all the sloppy, gloppy in-your-face weather that's assaulted us over the past several days, it may come as a surprise that our region is still behind the curve for winter snow and rainfall. Of the three northwest states, Idaho is probably in the best shape, according to surveyors from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Idaho's Panhandle is, at least.

As one water specialist for the service put it, Idaho is just "a few storms away from being back in the game." The hope is that the state will get back under the jet stream instead of under a high pressure ridge which has been dominant much the winter and brought moisture only to water basins along the continental divide.

The southern half of Idaho worries forecasters. The Boise River flow may be only about half normal, meaning that spring and summer shortages are likely. The Snake River may run at only about 86 percent of average, meaning that irrigators may face shutoffs during the dry season.

In Washington, even with storms this past week which dumped heavy snow in the Cascades, automated snow station readings were about 55 percent of normal as of February 1st. Snowpack in the Spokane River basin was only 74 percent of normal, although Lake Coeur d' Alene, which feeds the river, had risen about two and a half feet in the past week. A specialist for the conservation service said Washington would have to get 200 percent of normal snowfall over the next two months to fully catch up.

In Oregon, this season may go down as one of the lowest for many parts of the state. About two dozen automated stations in Oregon have broken their previous record lows for snowfall. Forecaster bluntly warned that water users should brace for well-below average streamflows for most Oregon rivers and streams this summer. A series of juicy storms this week boring into the region off the Pacific Ocean may help relieve some of the shortage.
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