Snowpack good in some, but not all, parts of region

Mountain snowpack levels are higher than usual in some parts of Southwest Oregon and lower than usual in others, measurements taken today show.

"Overall, we're doing pretty good now," said veteran snow ranger Steve Johnson, a monitor of the winter snowpack for the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest for some two decades.

He reports the all-important snow water content in the Rogue-Umpqua basin is now 103 percent of normal while the Klamath basin is at 100 percent of normal for the end of March. The snowpack serves as a frozen water bank that reflects how much water will be available during summer snow melt for stream flows and reservoir storage.

Fish Lake and Diamond Lake snow sites are both 143 percent of normal snow-water content for this time of year, he added.

"But we do have this problem child at the eastern edge of the Siskiyous," he acknowledged.

That would be the high elevation snow survey sites on Mount Ashland whose snow Johnson measured Tuesday for the end-of-the-month measurements.

The snow water content is only 66 percent of normal overall at all four sites, despite an above normal reading — 146 percent of normal since the site was established in 1935 — at the Siskiyou Summit site which is 4,600 feet above sea level. The water content was 4.7 inches. The snow depth for the site was 11 inches for 122 percent of normal.

The Ski Bowl Road site at 6,000 feet on Mount Ashland had 17 inches of water content, making it about 65 percent of normal. The snow depth was 49 inches for 69 percent of normal. That site has been measured since 1966.

Farther up at the Mount Ashland Switchback, 6,500 feet elevation, the water was 61 percent of normal at 20.2 inches. There were 56 inches of snow for 63 percent of normal at the site first measured in 1966.

The Caliban II site, established in 1974 at 6,500 feet elevation, had 19.4 inches of water content for 64 percent of normal. Snow depth was 54 inches, or 68 percent of normal.

For comparison purposes, the snow-water content for the four sites a month ago was 63 percent, Johnson noted. The water content in the mountains ringing the Rogue/Umpqua and Klamath basins were at 86 percent of normal at the end of February.

Johnson will take his last snow survey of the season at the end of April.

"Anything can happen," he said of the mountain snowpack. "I've seen it increase but, if you go by the law of averages, it generally decreases. The snowpack is usually at its highest point at the end of March or the first week of April."

— Paul Fattig

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