Olympic snowpack at 88 percent of normal; in 'pretty good shape,' specialist says
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Snow covers the north faces of Klahhane Ridge on Thursday as seen from Hurricane Ridge Road south of Port Angeles. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Olympic Mountain snowpack was 88 percent of normal basinwide Thursday, according to sensors that measure water content.

Snowpack is a reservoir that supplies water for drinking, irrigation, fish migration, power generation, recreation and other uses throughout the dry season.

“I think we should be in pretty good shape,” said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon.

“I don't foresee any problems.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tracks snowpack using a network of more than 700 automated snow telemetry sites throughout the western United States.

As of Thursday, snowpack was 98 percent of normal at the 5,010-foot Waterhole site near Hurricane Ridge and 72 percent of normal at the 3,960-foot Mount Crag site in East Jefferson County.

The 4,010-foot telemetry site in the upper Dungeness basin has melted out for the season, Pattee said.

Normal is defined as the median snowpack between 1981 to 2010.

The 4,870-foot Buckinghorse site in the upper Elwha River drainage is too new for snow water equivalent averages.

Snowpack in the Washington Cascades is faring slightly better than the Olympics, with basin averages ranging from 122 percent in the north to 94 percent in the south.

Eastern Washington, Idaho and Western Montana basins are reported to have above-average snowpacks.

“I think probably everyone is going to be in pretty good shape,” Pattee said.

The outlook is much different in drought-stricken California, with Sierra Nevada basins ranging from 19 percent to 32 percent of normal Thursday.

In the Olympics, a persistent ridge of high pressure over the eastern Pacific Ocean resulted in an unusually dry late fall and early winter.

Olympic snowpack was just 24 percent of normal Jan. 1.

But a series of February storms raised the Olympic snowpack to 80 percent of normal, and “we kind of hung in there,” Pattee said.

“We kind of maintained.”

Despite a near-normal snow year, the Olympics remain a “little behind the 8 ball” in total precipitation, Pattee said.

Year-to-date Olympic precipitation was 66 percent of normal as of Thursday, 77 percent at Waterhole, 65 percent at Dungeness and 57 percent at Mount Crag.

Olympic National Park reported 78 inches of snow at Hurricane Ridge on Thursday with sunny skies and a forecast high of 66 degrees.

An avalanche warning was in effect for the Olympics and Washington Cascades.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 02. 2014 11:39PM
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