Olympic snowpack jumps to 80 percent of normal seasonal depth
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Snow covers much of Rocky Peak and the Klahhane Ridge area within Olympic National Park on Thursday. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A series of winter storms this month has dampened summer drought concerns, with Olympic Mountain snowpack back to near-normal levels.

Water content in the Olympic snowpack was 80 percent of normal Thursday, up from 24 percent Jan. 1 and 34 percent just three weeks ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“It puts us a whole lot closer to being back on track,” said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon.

“Eighty percent? I think we can live with that. When we were 23 percent, it was a little scary.”

A persistent ridge of high pressure over the eastern Pacific Ocean resulted in an unusually dry early winter.

But a sequence of February storms raised a 50 percent statewide snowpack to 87 percent by Thursday.

Pattee said the summer water supply should be OK “if we can maintain what we have” in the mountains.

“The whole state is about the same,” he added.

Olympic Mountain snowpack is measured by the water content in the snow at three telemetry sites.

The snow water equivalent was 130 percent of normal at the 4,010-foot snow telemetry site in the upper Dungeness River basin Thursday.

Snowpack was 82 percent of normal at the 5,010-foot Waterhole site near Hurricane Ridge and 62 percent of normal at the 3,960-foot Mount Crag site in East Jefferson County.

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

Although the 4,870-foot Buckinghorse site in the upper Elwha River drainage is too new for snow water equivalent averages, the telemetry station there recorded 65 inches of new snow in the past seven days, Pattee said.

Buckinghorse had 110 inches — or 9.2 feet — of snow on the ground as of Thursday morning.

Olympic National Park reported 98 inches — or 8.2 feet — of snow at Hurricane Ridge on Thursday with a high avalanche danger from the peaks to the treeline.

Hurricane Ridge Road is open Fridays through Sundays in the winter, weather permitting.

The rope tow and snowboard area were opened last weekend and are expected to be open this weekend.

The poma lift won't be open this weekend, because of a Snowcat breakdown, but is expected to open soon.

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

Last modified: February 20. 2014 9:30PM
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