Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter storms bring good snowpack

Valley’s snow depth at 119 percent of average

Express Staff Writer

Snow depth in the Boulder Mountains stood at about 40 inches on Jan. 4. The entire Big Wood River Basin, including the Wood River Valley, is experiencing the first above-average snowpack year since 2008, with depths standing at about 19 percent above average on the valley floor. Photo by David N. Seelig

Backcountry recreationists can rejoice: winter storms have pummeled the Wood River Valley with almost 50 more inches of snow than last year, bringing the snowpack in the valley to more than 20 inches over last year's at this time.

According to the National Weather Service, the snowpack at the Ketchum Ranger District headquarters stands at 19 percent above the station's 30-year average.

"We're doing a lot better than last year," said Troy Lindquist, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Pocatello.

On Jan. 4, 2010, the basin's snowpack stood at 70 percent of normal. That number dropped to 68 percent by the end of March.

Lindquist said this year's healthy snowpack is due to a La Niña weather pattern.

"Typically, that's what we see with La Niña—wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest and into the central mountains of Idaho," he said. "We've had a good early part of the snow season this year."

Snowfall for the valley is 56 percent above average, with 68.4 inches reported at the Ketchum Ranger District building as of Dec. 31. Last year at that time, the valley had received 18.7 inches of snow, with less than 5 inches remaining on the ground by the end of December.

Lindquist said the last time the snowpack was above average was in 2008.

The above-average snowpack is prevalent in river basins throughout the state. The Salmon River basin is at 104 percent of normal, the Payette basin is at 106 percent and the Bruneau basin is at 147 percent. In northern Idaho, however, snowpack levels are below normal (88 percent in the Clearwater basin).

However, Lindquist pointed out, "we have a lot of winter left. There's a lot still to be determined."

Katherine Wutz:

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