Jon Lea on Thursday conducted the first monthly ground-truthing expedition of the season to an automated station on Mount Hood. The station, 5,400 feet above sea level, recorded 104 percent of average for the date. A measuring stick wasn’t the only way Lea gauged the healthy snowpack; skiers’ enthusiasm was reflected by the heavy traffic he found on Highway 26 to Government Camp.
“All the ski areas are absolutely jammed,” Lea said.
La Niña, characterized by relatively cool equatorial waters off the coast of South America, generally results in relatively cool and wet wintertime conditions in the Pacific Northwest.
Lea said snowpack throughout the Columbia River basin as a whole, excluding Canada, measured 113 percent of average for the date.
Most of the water that drives hydroelectric turbines in the Columbia basin first clings to the mountains as snow. A healthy snowpack means more water for irrigators growing crops and juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean. It also translates to a surplus of electricity when it runs off during the late spring and summer.