Carl Mills and Brad Lawrence fish for trout on a frozen Fish Lake on Friday. Though upper elevations recently received another blanket of snow, snowpack throughout the Rogue/Umpqua and Klamath basins remained below normal Friday. - Jamie Lusch

Snow levels improve

The good news is that the local mountain snowpack has thrown on another blanket of snow to add to its thin coat measured a month ago.

The bad news?

The end of February snow survey taken Friday on four sites on the Siskiyou Summit and Mount Ashland indicates that March and April will have to pile it on to bring the snow depth up to normal.

"Last month we were at 46 percent of normal (for snow-water content) for the four sites I measure — today we are at 63 percent," said snow ranger Steve Johnson of the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

But the snow-water content — the amount of water contained in the snow — in the mountain snowpack ringing the Rogue/Umpqua and Klamath basins remained at 86 percent of normal on Friday, mirroring the same percentage recorded at the end of January, he noted.

"So the Siskiyous caught up a bit and the Cascades fell behind a little," he said.

In fact, the Siskiyou Summit, at 4,600 feet above sea level, which had a scant snowpack last month, had 17 inches of snow for 100 percent of average on Friday. Moreover, the snow-water content was 6.8 inches, or 128 percent of normal.

The mountain snowpack serves as a frozen "water bank" that determines how much water will be available during spring and summer snowmelt for stream flows and reservoir storage.

The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service keep close track of the mountain snow levels and water content each winter around the state. In addition to taking manual measurements, the agencies employ snow telemetry (snotel) devices that automatically measure the water content in the snow at remote mountain sites.

Skiing into the Ski Bowl Road site at 6,000 feet on Mount Ashland on Friday, Johnson measured 12.5 inches of snow water, making it about 59 percent of average. The depth at that site was 42 inches of snow, or 62 percent of normal.

The snow water at the Mount Ashland Switchback, 6,500 feet elevation, was 56 percent of average at 15.2 inches. There were 52 inches of snow for 63 percent of normal.

The Caliban II site, also 6,500 feet elevation, had 15.2 inches of water content for 61 percent of normal. Snow depth was 52 inches, or 68 percent of normal.

Telemetry readings from Big Red Mountain in the Siskiyous showed 15.43 inches of snow-water content for 70 percent of normal, Johnson said. But the telemetry site near Diamond Lake had 16.7 inches for 111 percent of normal, he added.

"We are better off than we were a month ago," he said. "The bad news is we're still below normal but that's no big deal when you look at the basin as a whole."

But he cautioned that a "normal" reading is relative.

"In this business, there is really no such thing as normal," he said. "It's not uncommon to be below normal or above normal. To have a 'normal' reading, that's unusual."

Moreover, it's not uncommon for March or even April to bring a lot of snow to the mountains, building up the snowpack, he said.

"They are calling for pretty stormy weather in the next two days or so — that's good news," he said. "March can be a big month, as can the first week or two of April."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

Share This Story