Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baldy snowpack still near record low

But new weather pattern could produce more storms

Express Staff Writer

This chart of Bald Mountain snowpacks, measured on the first day of each month of the winter, shows historical maximum depths, recent average depths and historical minimum depths compared to this year’s snowpack on Jan. 1 and Feb. 1.
Express graphic by Kristen Kaiser

    At about 25 inches, snow depth on the top of Bald Mountain on Feb. 1 was the fourth skimpiest it’s been on that date since the U.S. Forest Service began keeping monthly records in 1949. However, a ridge of high pressure off the California coast has moved farther out to sea, allowing storms, which had been pushed north for the past two months, to track eastward across central Idaho.
    The National Weather Service is reporting an even chance of above-, near- and below-normal precipitation for the rest of the winter in southern Idaho, and forecasting above-normal precipitation for the central and northern parts of the state.
    “It should be a wetter pattern for us,” said Dan Valle, a meteorologist with the agency’s Pocatello office. “But it’s too early to say if it will be enough to break the drought.”
    On Tuesday, Sun Valley Resort was reporting a total winter snowfall of 61.5 inches, with a 34-inch snowpack at the summit, 30 inches at mid-mountain and 26 inches at the base, following a 6-inch snowfall Monday.
    Resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said Sun Valley will continue to make snow for as long as it’s needed to provide good conditions.
    “We’re going to have a great product for our guests—which is everyone who skis or snowboards,” Sibbach said.
    The Forest Service snow survey site on Baldy is just below the summit to the right of the Challenger chairlift station.
    The Natural Resources Conservation Service keeps a record of the snow-water content at seven sites in the upper Big Wood River Valley, by measuring the weight of the snow and translating it into inches of water. The data are recorded on the first day of each month of the winter. This is the fifth driest early February in the valley since the agency began keeping records in 1961.

It’s too early to say if it will be enough to break the drought.”
Dan Valle
National Weather Service

    As of Tuesday, the NRCS was reporting that the snow-water equivalent was 54 percent of normal in the Big Wood Basin and 52 percent of normal in the Little Wood Basin.
    The agency’s Snotel site at Chocolate Gulch north of Ketchum, at 6,440 feet elevation, measured 15 inches of snow, up from only 6 inches on Jan. 1. The Galena Summit site at 8,780 feet showed 35 inches, up from 24 inches on Jan. 1.
    The snow situation is much better north of the Wood River Valley, with 81 percent of normal snow-water equivalent in the Salmon River basin. Snow-water equivalent elsewhere in the state ranges from 44 percent of normal in the Owyhee Basin to 101 percent in the upper Snake Basin.
    According to the National Weather Service, the wettest winter storms for south-central Idaho usually come from the southwest. The storm in California last week was the first significant snowfall there since early December.
    Squaw Valley ski area, near Lake Tahoe in California, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, was reporting 14 inches of new snow during the past seven days, a 31-inch snowpack on the summit and a 21-inch snowpack at the base. More snow was forecast in the Sierras this week.
    Despite the recent storm, the California Department of Water Resources on Thursday said the state’s snowpack was only 12 percent of normal for this time of winter.
    The forecast for the Wood River Valley calls for snow showers from Sunday through Wednesday.

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