Olympic snowpack running low at just 24 percent of normal levels
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Snow dusts the northern face of Klahhane Ridge south of Port Angeles recently. Water content in the Olympic Mountain snowpack is at a mere 24 percent of normal levels. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Water content in the Olympic Mountain snowpack was a “pathetic” 24 percent of normal heading into the new year, a water supply specialist said.

But Scott Pattee of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon said it’s too soon to make predictions about the next summer’s water supply.

“Usually in the early season like this, things are still on the fence,” Pattee said.

“We could have some big months.”

It may take a few big months for the snow water equivalent in the Olympics to catch up to normal amounts.

Snow water equivalent, which measures water content, was 32 percent of normal at the 5,010-foot-high Waterhole snow telemetry site near Hurricane Ridge on Tuesday.

It was 17 percent of normal at 3,960-foot Mount Crag in East Jefferson County and just 12 percent of normal at the 4,010-foot telemetry site in the upper Dungeness River drainage.

By contrast, Olympic snowpack was 211 percent of normal in January 2013.

Pattee said the current conditions in the Olympics are drier than in the most recent big drought year of 2005.

The Washington Cascades are faring only slightly better.

Basins that feed the north Puget Sound had a combined 63 percent snowpack Tuesday. Central and south Sound basins reported 42 percent and 46 percent snowpacks, respectively.

Central Washington was about 50 percent of normal, while Northwest Oregon basins were about 25 percent of normal, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Normal is defined as the median snowpack taken from 1981 to 2010.

“We’re setting all kinds of records on the lowest snowpack,” Pattee said.

“It’s almost impossible to catch back up.”

Meteorologist Josh Smith with the National Weather Service in Seattle said a persistent ridge of high pressure over the eastern Pacific has kept the Northwest drier than usual.

“There’s just been a lot fewer low-pressure systems than we’d normally see this time of year,” he said.

The Weather Service was calling for the possibility of mountain snow above 2,500 feet Friday.

The ski season at Hurricane Ridge has been put on hold for lack of an adequate snow base.

Olympic National Park reported 13 inches of snow at Hurricane Ridge on Tuesday.

Hurricane Ridge Road has been closed on weekdays at the Olympic National Park entrance station at Heart o’ the Hills campground 5 miles south of Port Angeles.

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

Last modified: January 01. 2014 6:42PM
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