Mountain snowpack map for the Columbia River Basin, 1 April 2016. Graphic: NRCS

By Glenn Farley
6 April 2016

STEVENS PASS, Washington (KING5 News) – April 1st is considered the peak for winter snowpack in Washington state. Last year as this time,  the snow monitoring site near Stevens Pass had  just a foot to 18 inches on the ground, as the state headed into a record drought. 

Today at this site, there are 85 inches, about seven feet. That's about 85% of normal.

The snowpack ranges from 91% of normal in the Central Puget Sound region to as high as 124% of normal the upper Columbia Basin  The Olympics are at 106%, helping feed the drinking water system for the City of Tacoma. The Lower Yakima basin is 118% of normal, which should be good for farmers. 

But while the snow is deep, not everything is great.

Scott Pattee with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says one concern is warm temperature coming into Washington this week. Seattle and the lowlands could reach 80 degrees Thursday.

"Even if it’s 60 up here in the mountains for the majority of the day, that's going to be enough energy to really get this snow pack turning the corner on the melt cycle," said Pattee.  "We can hear the streams running  behind us right now, so it’s already releasing water out of the snow pack."

On Wednesday, Stevens Pass hit 59.

But it's not just a few days of warming that concerns him. It's the setup. Pattee has monitored the state's snow pack for almost three decades, and despite the high snowpack  levels,  it's what he calls the density of the snowpack that is a concern.  There's water inside the snow, and it's riper than it should be at this time of year.

"We just never really had that deep freeze to really tighten up all that water, that free water standing in that snowpack," he said. [more]

State's snowpack deeper than 2015, but threatened by warmer temperatures

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