BEND, OR -- Central Oregon’s snowpack is off to a strong start, thanks to early season snowstorms. Snowpack in the Upper Deschutes and Crooked River basin are 144% of normal for this time of year, as of Thursday.
NRCS Hydrologist Matt Warbritton says an early November storm was followed by two weeks of dry weather, which was a little concerning, "Towards the end of November, we started to get significant storms again that again dropped pretty substantial snowpack for this early in the season, across most parts of the state. Even where it’s been a little dryer, like southern Oregon and much of Central Oregon, those areas also received pretty significant snowpack."
However, he says those November storms weren't all positive, "A lot of the early season storms, instead of precipitation as rain, that precipitation fell as snow at higher elevations. So, we didn’t quite get the amount of rain early in the season that we usually get, and that’s why some of the basins show below normal precipitation." He tells KBND News, "We would like to start to see more near-normal precip levels for more sites. Especially in Central Oregon, where they’re still the highest levels of drought in the state." According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, much of Crook County remains in “exceptional drought” - which is the highest level.
Warbritton says it's a good start to replenishing reservoirs that have dried out from several years of drought, but the trend needs to continue. "Those above normal conditions are needed because next summer they’re going to be drawing directly from the water supply they get from this season’s snowmelt and they can’t really rely on any sort of carry-over."
The takeaway is, he says, this snowy trend needs to continue; we still need more moisture before next spring to recover from previous precipitation shortfalls.