Early snowpack bodes well for water supply

The first snow measurement of the winter at the Siskiyou Summit holds promises of a good water year for the Rogue Valley.

At 28 inches, the depth at the summit snow survey site is 215 percent of normal for the end of December, reports Steve Johnson, snow ranger for the Ashland Ranger District in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

And the all-important water content, which reflects how much water is in the snow, is 6.2 inches, making it 214 percent of normal for this time of year, Johnson said.

"We have a really good jump on things this year," said Johnson who has been keeping tabs on the local snow measurement for more than 20 years.

"If we have a normal water year from this point out, then we'll be ahead of the game," he added.

The mountain snowpack provides a bank of water for summer streamflows and reservoir storage. The U.S. Forest Service works with the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service in measuring the snow survey sites.

Johnson took the readings this morning, and more snow is expected in coming days.

Historically, only one of the four snow measurement sites in the forest is physically measured at the end of December. Johnson will include three other higher elevation sites in his snow surveys at the end of January, February, March and April.

However, the Siskiyou Summit snow survey site, established in 1935, is the oldest, continuously used one in the forest. The site is 4,600 feet above sea level.

The record snow depth at the site for the end of December is 52 inches measured in 1965. But there have been half a dozen times when there was no snow at the site during the first measurement of the year.

— Paul Fattig

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