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Snowpack is meager. Drought brings dismal measurements, but all hope is not yet lost

by LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 12/31/13

A year for the record books.

The year-long drought that’s plagued the Klamath Basin ends today, fittingly, with the driest December ever, based on National Weather Service records.

December precipitation stood at 0.11 inches for Klamath Falls as of Monday night while the year total was a meager 5.36 inches, well below the yearly average of 14.88 and lower than the 9.78 inches measured in 2012.

“The snowpack is dismal,” said Brett Lutz, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Medford office. The on-ground total at Crater Lake National Park’s headquarters complex is 6 inches, less than 10 percent of the 63 inches normal for the end of the calendar year. The park has received 44 inches of snow since Oct. 1, 26 percent of the average 171 inches. Highs have been in the 40s and 50s, with lows above freezing. Lutz said rain is likely Friday with snow showers possible Friday night and early Saturday.

While the snowpack is far below normal, it’s not the worst. On Dec. 31, 1989, the park measuring station had only 5 inches on Dec. 31 while 3 inches was recorded on the same date in 1976. Lutz said the park was at only 25 percent of accumulated average snowfall on Jan. 1, 2012, but heavy late winter-early spring snow helped the park recover to about 90 percent of average

“All hope isn’t lost,” Lutz said, although he cautioned, “When we miss snow in December, it’s hard to make it up.”

 November and February are typically the wettest months in the Klamath Basin, with an average 2.19 inches of precipitation in November and 1.92 inches in February. Only 0.34 of an inch fell in November. The average precipitation for December is 1.45 inches while the January average is 1.85 inches.

Based on weather data from U.S. Data Monitor, the area in Southern Oregon and Northern California south of the Klamath River is classified as “severe drought” while the region north of the river is regarded as “moderate drought.

Snow has been a minor factor for motorists so this winter with only 2 inches roadside on Highway 62 at Willamette Pass and 2 inches roadside on Highway 140 at the Lake of the Woods. Road cameras at Lake of the Woods, Highway 97 south in California, Highway 140 east in Lake County and elsewhere show only patches of roadside snow.

Snow and precipitation is also way below average in California.

“With the huge agricultural community already burdened by high prices of water and big restrictions on the amount of water allocated, this bleak outlook could be quite significant,” said Ken Clark, AccuWeather. com western U.S. expert, who said forecasts for early 2014 show very little, if any rain, in California. “This much lack of rain over such a long period of time could prove catastrophic for farmers.”

 lee@heraldandnews.com ?


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