Olympic snowpack 211 percent of normal

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

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The water content in the Olympic Mountain snowpack was more than double the normal amount heading into the new year, a water supply specialist said.

The 211-percent-of-normal Olympic snowpack, in fact, was the “highest in the state” and “some of the highest in the nation” as of Tuesday, said Scott Pattee of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Mount Vernon on Wednesday.

“The way the storms came in early in the year blasted the Olympics,” Pattee said.

Snowpack is a measurement of the water content in the snow, not the snow depth.

The snowpack at the 4,010-foot snow telemetry site in the upper Dungeness basin led the region with a water content reading 291 percent of normal.

Pattee cautioned data from the Dungeness can be skewed because it gets a lot less snow than other parts of the range because of the rain shadow.

The snowpack at the 3,960-foot Mount Crag snow telemetry site in east Jefferson County was 237 percent of normal, and the 5,010-foot Waterhole site near Hurricane Ridge was 179 percent of normal, Pattee said.

Olympic National Park officials said the snow was 91 inches deep at Hurricane Ridge on Friday.

Olympic and Cascade Mountain snow is powdery and “bottomless” this year, Pattee said, because of the frequency of late-fall and early-winter storms.

A consistent deposit of the white stuff, combined with a lack of significant warming, has so far prevented the hardening of snow called “Cascade crust” that skiers and snowboarders complain about.

“I think all in all, most folks have been pretty pleased with the quality,” Pattee said.

Beyond the benefits to outdoor recreationalists, snowpack is essential for the water supply in last summer and early fall.

It feeds the hydroelectric dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers, which provide the power that the Bonneville Power Administration sells to the Clallam County Public Utility District and the city of Port Angeles.

Snowpack in Washington Cascades ranges from about 130 to 150 percent of normal, Pattee said.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center is calling for a colder-than-normal January with near normal precipitation.

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 06. 2013 6:11PM
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