Washington's snowpacks are below average

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While the lack of snow so far may be blessing to some, it’s been a curse on Washington state’s snowpack.

"El Nio is really kicking us in the heinie," said Scott Pattee, water supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As of today, the state’s snowpacks are 84 percent of average, far down from the 132 percent just a month ago.

Although it is still early in the year, if the warmer, drier conditions persist it could pose problems throughout Washington state, which depends on snowpack runoff for 70 to 80 percent of its freshwater supplies.

While November "was really on track for a good winter," December failed to deliver much-needed precipitation, he said. Although it was the 14th coldest December since 1895, it was also the 11th driest December on record.

"That’s what really killed us on our snowpack," Pattee said. Typically at the start of January about 50 percent of the snowpack should be on the ground, but as of today "we have only 30 to 40 percent."

Conditions throughout the state vary from Green River’s low of 49 percent to the Olympic Peninsula’s 123 percent of average. The Walla Walla River basin was at 89 percent of average today while the Yakima River basin was at 79 percent.

Among the areas of concern if the below-average snowpack persists will be the Spokane area and the central Puget Sound region, including the Cedar River basin which provides Seattle with 70 percent of its water.

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