SNOWPACK NEAR NORMAL FOR 2017

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COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD – CHERYL SCHWEIZER

MOSES LAKE — Rain and warmer temperatures will mean some melting snow at lower elevations this weekend. That could translate to water – maybe a lot of it – making an appearance in creek-beds and culverts that are usually dry this time of year. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service office in Spokane say eastern and central Washington residents should look out for water in unexpected places.

Temperatures are forecast to hit 54 degrees Friday, after rain Thursday night. “We could be dealing with some more flooding by Friday,” said Steven Bodnar, meteorologist with NWS in Spokane.

It’s the end of a long, cold, wet winter, and those usually dry creekbeds and culverts might be filled with debris. “When that happens the water tries to find a way around,” Bodnar said. Roads already have washed out in Adams County, including an incident Feb. 17 where a section of road between Lind and Warden washed out and left a hole 15 feet deep.

With about six weeks of snowpack measurement to go, the water year is looking pretty good. “All the basins in Washington are sitting at 100 percent (of water content) or slightly over,” Bodnar said. For the purposes of forecasting summer water levels, water content of the snow is what matters. It’s the theoretical amount of water that would result if all the snow melted at once, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service website.

Snow was widespread over the mountains Tuesday, and snowed again in some locations Wednesday. “We’re going to continue to see the mountain snowpack pile up,” Bodnar said.

Snowfall and snow accumulation are measured in river drainages throughout the region, and in drainages all over the country. Officials measure snow depth and the analyze the composition to determine how much water actually is in the snow.

But how the water year ultimately turns out depends on Mother Nature. If temperatures are below normal over the spring, all that snow stays right where it is. That increases the potential for flooding when it does start warming up, he said. Normally in this area, there’s a slow warming trend in the spring, and in that case the snow follows suit and melts at a relatively slow pace. When the snow melts will have an impact on the start of the fire season, Bodnar said.