Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Big Wood lags in snowpack depth

Basin still driest in the state


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer


This map shows the current snowpack depth statewide. While much of the state is at roughly normal levels, the central mountains and the Big Wood River basin remain the driest in the state. Courtesy graphic.

Though much of the state is benefiting an above-average snowpack, the Big Wood River basin is still the driest in the state.

A report issued earlier this month by the Natural Resources Conservation Service stated that snowpack depth has reached 125 percent of average in some parts of Idaho, while the Big Wood River basin has maintained its level at 88 percent. The basin includes the Wood River Valley.

"February was bone-dry until mid-month, when storms made their way into the area," the report reads.

Precipitation for the month was at 48 percent of normal for February. Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the agency, said last month that a high-pressure system had prevented winter storms from reaching much of Idaho.

"Hopefully, the ridge will break down," he said at the time.

It did, but not until Feb. 17, when a storm interval brought 17 inches of snowfall to the Wood River Valley over the course of seven days.

The National Weather Service reported that the snowpack increased by about a foot as a result of this storm. The snowpack average stood at 25 inches for February, slightly above last year's mark.

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Despite the below-average precipitation, the Natural Resources Conservation Service report states that the basin shouldn't see too much of a negative impact, and that the Big Wood Basin is still standing above last year's levels.

"Supplies should be adequate in the Big Wood and Big Lost basins," it states.

No shortage of water for agricultural use is anticipated, and water storage in Magic Reservoir—in southern Blaine County—is at 110 percent of last year. The basin's snowpack, while below average, is still at 117 percent of last year's.

The situation for March is already looking up, as the National Weather Service predicts above-average precipitation for the rest of the month.

The service has extended its forecast for the tropical Pacific Ocean event La Niña, which was originally set to last only through February but now is projected to have effects as late as May.

This weather pattern generally brings above-average precipitation to the region, a promise that has not been upheld so far this season.

Much of the state's snowpack was average or above average as of Tuesday. Bear River Basin in southeast Idaho boasted the highest numbers, 127 percent of average. The lowest numbers, roughly 85 percent of average, were reported across the central mountains, including the Boise Basin as well as the Big Wood, Big Lost and Little Lost basins.

The overall snowpack for the state is at more than 110 percent.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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