SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Widespread snowstorms have boosted the Pacific Northwest’s previously anemic snow pack to almost normal levels statewide in just two weeks.
The biggest improvements in what is called “snow-water equivalent” — the amount of water contained in the snowpack — are in the Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes basins in Oregon. Those areas were at 26% of normal on Dec. 30 and are now at 90% of normal, the Capital Press reported on Wednesday.
Last year saw something similar unfold in Oregon, when a series of storms hit in February that boosted what had been a lagging level of snow-water equivalent.
This year, statewide the snow-water equivalent increased from 45% of normal to 79% of normal between Dec. 30 and Jan. 14, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which tracks the measurements.
The Willamette Basin increased from 26% to 83%, and the Umatilla, Walla Walla and Willow basins rose from 43% to 89%.
Snowpack is a crucial source of water for farms, especially in Eastern Oregon where it rains far less than it does west of the Cascades. As snow melts, it trickles down into creeks and rivers, sustaining healthy stream flows while providing irrigation supplies for crops and livestock.
Washington’s snowpack was similarly bleak at the start of the new year, at just 47% of normal statewide. It too has rebounded dramatically, up to 88% as of Jan. 14.
The South Puget Sound, Lower Yakima, Lower Snake, Spokane and Upper Columbia basins are all at or near average for snow-water equivalent, after they were no higher than 65% of normal a few weeks ago.
Like Oregon, Washington has experienced several feet of new snow in the Cascades.