Snow blankets portions of Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Snow blankets portions of Klahhane Ridge in Olympic National Park. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Snowpack at 55 percent of normal

Hurricane Ridge Road open

PORT ANGELES — Olympic Mountain snowpack was just 55 percent of normal Wednesday despite a heavy blast of snow late last week, a water supply specialist said.

Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon, said it would take an unusual winter for the snowpack to rebound by April 1.

“If we have normal conditions from here on out,” Pattee said, “we’re not going to be near normal.”

“We’re going to be more like in that 80 percent range or so, which isn’t that bad,” Pattee added. “We can live with that.”

April 1 is generally considered to be the peak of the snowpack in the Pacific Northwest.

“As far as water shortages,” Pattee said, “we’re still not there to be able to really say much about that.”

Winter and spring snowpack provides a reservoir of meltwater for municipal water supplies, irrigation and fish habitat in the dry summer and early fall.

It is measurement of the water content in the snow, not the depth of the snow.

Olympic Mountain snowpack was just 16 percent of normal Dec. 1 and 33 percent of normal Dec. 15.

“We had some record lows streamflows going into winter,” Pattee said.

The snowpack was bolstered by a series of storms that moved into the Pacific Northwest late last week.

“I think the Olympics probably got the best shot of it,” Pattee said.

Snowpacks in the Western Washington Cascades ranged from 42 percent of normal in central Puget Sound basins to 59 percent of normal in the north sound Wednesday.

In the Olympics, daily snowpack averages are taken at three USDA snow telemetry (SNOTEL) sites: Waterhole, Dungeness and Mount Crag.

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

Snowpack was 59 percent of normal at the 5,010-foot Waterhole site near Hurricane Ridge as of Wednesday.

Snowpack was 70 percent of normal at the 4,010-foot Dungeness site and 43 percent of normal at the 3,960-foot Mount Crag site in east Jefferson County.

The 4,870-foot Buckinghorse site in the upper Elwha basin measures snowpack but is too new to be used in the 30-year average, Pattee has said.

Olympic National Park also conducts field snowpack measurements called snow courses at Hurricane Ridge, Cox Valley and Deer Park.

Monthly on-site mapping is combined with the telemetry data to yield Olympic Mountain snowpack measurements Jan. 1, Feb. 1, March 1, April 1 and May 1.

Olympic National Park reported 36 inches of snow on the ground at Hurricane Ridge as of Wednesday.

Road open today

Hurricane Ridge Road is scheduled to be open daily beginning at 9 a.m. today though New Year’s Day.

From Jan. 2 through March 29, the road is scheduled to be open Friday through Sunday and holiday Mondays.

The road may close as weather and road conditions change.

All vehicles, including those with four-wheel drive, are required to carry chains beginning at the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station.

Hurricane Ridge Visitors Center and the Hurricane Ridge Ski, Snowboard and Tubing area is scheduled to be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays through Sunday and on holiday Mondays.

Hurricane Ridge Winter Sports Club offers skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing lessons for those aged 4 and older. Private lessons are also available.

For more information, see www.hurricaneridge.com or phone 848-667-7669.

For webcams and other information about Hurricane Ridge, click on the Olympic National Park website at www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm.

Hurricane Ridge Road and weather information is available by phoning the park hotline at 360-565-3131.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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