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Local Snowpack Lags Despite Recent Storm

BEND, OR -- Despite recent rain and snow, Central Oregon’s snowpack remains below normal for the year. "The valve kind of shut off January 6-8 and we flatlined, which means we didn’t receive snow," says Scott Oviatt, Supervisory Hydrologist with the USDA's Natural Resources and Conservation Service in Oregon, the agency who conducts snow surveys.

Oviatt says this third year of drought is taking a toll, "If you have dry soil going into the winter months when you accumulate snow on it, there’s no place for that snow to runoff into the streams. It’s going to be absorbed into the soil, kind of like a dry sponge." He adds, "We went into the fall with very low stream flows - record lows in some cases, very low reservoirs for storage upstreams in the Deschutes Basin. And, we’re just not going to replenish those, so we’re just going to have inadequate water supplies which we could typically rely on later in the year." Those water supplies are critical for spring stream-flowsm summer irrigation and recreation.

He says snowpack in the Deschutes Basin typically peaks March 28, "Now we’re on the side of the curve where we should be melting out. Fortunately we’re gaining snow, which is beneficial, of course. But, we’re so far behind in terms of accumulation for the year and for the winter, it’s almost a too little too late scenario."

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