Monday, December 15, 2008

Idaho Winter Has Arrived


Boise--More than four inches of snow blanketed the Treasure Valley from a series of weekend storms and chilly temperatures. In the Southwest and Central Mountains more than 20 inches of snow fell in just 48 hours making travel on Idaho's highways a crapshoot, and its still snowing.

For Idaho farmers the snow couldn't have come at a better time. Many are starting to finance their 2009 season and balmy temperatures, green grass and brown mountainsides had them nervous.

October and November snowpack averaged between 70 and 100 percent of normal across the state. What had many concerned were the warm temperatures. The state’s SNOTEL sites reported anywhere from 7 to 65 percent of average snow water equivalent on Dec. 4. The low spot was in the Owyhee Basin in western Idaho despite receiving 92 percent of normal precipitation for the water year that began Oct. 1. The high - 65 percent - was recorded in the Upper Snake Basin above Palisades where 87 percent of average precipitation has fallen.

USDA hydrologist Ron Abramovich admitted that "We’re getting a late start.” He says this weekend should bring snowpack numbers almost to normal levels but water content in the snow is less than ideal.

"It’s still early enough that we can catch up,” said Abramovich. “But we do need above normal precipitation over the next few months to end up with a normal snowpack on April first.” Toward the end of last season, state and USDA hydrologists reported snowpack levels across the state at 95 percent to 130 percent of average, well above levels recorded the previous year.

Last winter got off to a slow start but a series of snowstorms from late December through April's resulted in above average snowpack and help overcome a dry 2006. The snowpack eased water curtailment threats from surface water right holders on hundreds of groundwater pumpers across southern Idaho who draw water from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, which has lost volume after nearly a decade of drought conditions.

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