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So far this winter, Crook County has not received the snowfall that was predicted

CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO
 - Last winter, Crook County received record-breaking levels of snow. This winter was predicted to be similar, but so far, January has been slightly above normal temperatures.

Before this winter arrived, long-term forecasts for the Crook County area suggested the area might face a significantly snowy season reminiscent of last winter.

In fact, the predictions prompted local leaders to develop emergency plans in preparation for another dose of heavy snow this winter.

However, the community has received relatively little snowfall, and based on updated weather forecasts, people should expect more of the same — at least for the rest of this month.

"Looking ahead to the month of January, the (National Weather Service's) Climate Prediction Center is forecasting near to slightly above normal temperatures and then precipitation slightly below normal," said Marilyn Lohmann, a hydrologist with Pendleton's National Weather Service office.

Lohmann acknowledges that this past fall, predictions for a colder and wetter than normal winter were based upon the fact that the Pacific Northwest is in a weak La Nina cycle, as was the case a year ago.

"The sea surface temperature off the coast of South America is cooler than normal," she explained, adding that each La Nina is different. Lohmann went on to suggest that there may be a more atmospheric feature that is changing the weather patterns locally, so that makes it difficult to base weather forecasts solely on La Nina predictions.

"This year, we have had an almost permanent high pressure area continue to develop and remain off the West Coast," she said. "That brought us a lot of the drier December weather." Lohmann went on to add that another high pressure has developed at the beginning of January and is expected to last through the rest of the month.

Lohmann went on to point out that because this has prevented moisture-laden systems from entering the state, minimal snow has fallen in the mountains as well as the valley communities like Prineville.

"It is kind of worrisome with the snowpack around 50 percent of what we should have this time of year," she remarked.

While January is setting up to be drier and warmer than normal, the trend may not continue for the remainder of the winter and early spring. Lohmann points out that La Nina patters tend to strengthen during between January and March, so a pattern shift is still possible.

"The three-month outlook, through February, March and April, calls for normal to below normal temperatures and normal to above normal precipitation," she said.

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