WALLA WALLA — At the start of the new year, low snowpack levels were the rule across Washington and Oregon with no relief in the immediate forecast.
The just-concluded year in Walla Walla was no exception, said Dennis Hull, National Weather Service meteorologist in Pendleton.
“This was the second driest year on record,” he said today. “Precipitation in 2013 totaled 12.57 inches, which is 8.28 inches below normal. (The) driest was 12.18 inches in 1952.”
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the snowpack in the Walla Walla River Basin was 83 percent of normal today.
Although low, that was well above many of the snowpacks in the state’s remaining 11 river basin areas, with the lowest being 24 percent in the Olympic basin.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, released Dec. 26, showed abnormally dry conditions across much of Washington and abnormally dry to drought conditions across Oregon. Drought conditions were shown in other Western states, too.
National Weather Service meteorologist Colby Neuman in Portland said the entire West Coast is dry.
Most Oregon counties are seeing snowpack levels of less than 50 percent of average.
Central Oregon’s Hoodoo Ski Area needs 36 inches of snow to open for the season but only about 7.5 inches so far.
In Washington, The Summit at Snoqualmie Pass remained closed for skiing and snowboarding, almost three weeks later than average.
Warm temperatures have brought rain, melting what snow has accumulated, and making it “very difficult to sustain the snow pack that we’ve had,” spokesman Guy Lawrence told KING-TV. “We’ve built a little tiny bit of snow pack, then we lose a little bit, we gain a little bit back.”
Neuman told The Register-Guard there is time to rebound from the abnormally dry conditions in the next few months. But if that doesn’t happen, he said that could create concerns for water supplies, plants and an early fire season.
He noted four recent years with low snowpack — 1981, 1990, 1996 and 2005. In 1981 and 2005, dry conditions persisted through the winter, while heavy snowfall fell in the second half the winter seasons in 1990 and 1996.
National Weather Service meteorologist Clinton Rockey of Portland said the second half of winter and spring are tough to predict. However, he said based on past weather patterns and ocean cycles, he can estimate the summer will be warmer than usual.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318.