February was wet in Oregon, but not wet enough

By Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Heavy snow and rain in February helped Oregon's water outlook, but it wasn't enough to change the overall picture.

Heavy snow and rain in February improved Oregon’s water outlook and March could bring more precipitation, but it’s probably not enough to stave off supply problems in some parts of the state this summer, a federal hydrologist said.

“It’s quite an improvement, but we’re still looking at real dry and drought conditions across the southern tier of Oregon, for sure,” said Julie Koeberle, with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Portland. The agency conducts snowpack measurements of the state’s river basins and prepares water supply reports.

In the upper Deschutes and Crooked River basins, February’s precipitation was 223 percent of normal, Koeberle said. Precipitation in the Umatilla River drainage was 135 percent of the February normal, and that was the lowest amount in the state, she said.

But even with the heavy snow and rain, many parts of the state have only half the stored water they normally have at this time of year, Koeberle said. In the Cascades and the Willamette River drainage, the amount of snow on the ground doubled in some cases during February. The snowpack total, which sat at 26 percent of normal on Feb. 1, is at 55 percent now, Koeberle said.

“It was a wet month, but what it really shows is how dry we were,” she said.

Northern and northeast Oregon, including Mount Hood and east along the Columbia River corridor, are in the best shape, Koeberle said. A handful of sites have above normal snowpack.

Another month of snowfall will help the situation, and rain in April and May can add to reservoir totals.

“February’s a good example that we can improve,” Koeberle said. “We don’t have time to catch up to normal, but we have time to improve.”


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