Low snowpack signals more drought for parts of Oregon
Federal officials say Oregon's snowpack is below normal, and that could mean low streamflows and possible drought this summer for parts of the state.
May's Water Supply Outlook report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service found that despite a wetter than average April, some snow monitoring stations were below average at best.
"During a normal May, about 45 percent of our snow monitoring sites are snow-free," said Julie Koeberle, a USDA snow survey hydrologist. "This year, 60 percent are without snow."
Many irrigation reservoirs are storing near average amounts of water for this time of year, Koeberle said, which could provide a buffer for some areas.
Even though late winter snowfall rescued the state's snowpack from record lows, it probably wasn't enough to improve the water supply outlook, according to the USDA report.
Warm, dry spring?
Gov. Kate Brown declared a drought state of emergency for Klamath and Baker counties, with more counties likely to follow. Streamflow is expected to be well below average throughout most of the state due to a drier than normal winter and a well below normal seasonal snowpack. About 40 percent of Oregon is expected to be in a moderate drought.
A forecast by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls for a warmer and drier than normal weather pattern for the next three months, and that some parts of the state should expect lower than usual water supplies.
Northern Oregon could be the exception, with rivers near normal where near-average amounts of spring rain fell. Despite that, Northern Oregon's snowpack was still mostly below normal as of May 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Across the state, more than half of the the agency's snow monitoring sites had less than 70 percent of the normal peak snowpack. Only eight monitoring sites were normal, all of them on the west side of the Cascades and most located on the slopes around Mount Hood, the conservation service reported. As of May 1, the Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes areas were the only regions with normal snowpack.