Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snowpack down, but not by much

January storms gave big boost to water supply


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer


Courtesy graphic Though snowpacks are at higher levels than last month, depths still lag behind average through much of the state.

January storms boosted Idaho's snowpack statewide, but snow depth is still below average for the Big Wood, Salmon and Little Wood River basins.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service released its February snowpack outlook this week. The report alerts recreationists and farmers to what they can expect regarding streamflow and water supply this year.

Snowpacks were far below average for much of the state as of Jan. 1, thanks to a December dry spell, but the agency reports that above-average precipitation in January helped reduce the risk of water shortages this spring.

The agency reported that the Big Wood Basin's snowpack is at 83 percent of average. This is still an improvement on earlier reports, however, as the basin's snowpack has increased by 15 percentage points over the past month.

"The Big Wood has virtually an identical amount of snow this year as it did last year at this time," the report states. "Hopefully, snowpacks will continue climbing closer to average."

Last year's snowpack was impacted by a six-week dry spell throughout January and early February, which eventually yielded to early-spring snowstorms.

This winter has been characterized by a series of shorter dry spells, including five weeks in November and December.

The agency reports that the early part of February is set to be dry as well—a prediction supported by the National Weather Service's forecast for dry weather through Saturday.

The service reports that a high-pressure ridge will dominate the region through Friday, only breaking down late Friday ahead of a weak storm system that will likely come through the area this weekend.

Snowpacks in the Salmon River Basin stand at only 84 percent of average, but the report states that the agency is still hopeful that the basin's water supply will increase as spring approaches, possibly through late February.

"The bright side is that there is a good coverage for snow recreation," the report states. "It will provide a fun whitewater season this summer."

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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