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String of storms hits state; snowpack builds to 80% of normal

Progress is expected to continue into the early part of spring

The Columbian
Published:
2 Photos
A gust of wind flips Spencer Henry's umbrella up as he walks west on Evergreen Boulevard over Interstate 5 on his way to work Tuesday. A continuing series of storms brought more than a half inch of additional rain, following an inch of rain that fell Monday. Wind gusts were measured as high as 28 mph at Pearson Field. Localized problems, such as flooded streets, were reported. Today's forecast calls for slightly less rain and wind.
A gust of wind flips Spencer Henry's umbrella up as he walks west on Evergreen Boulevard over Interstate 5 on his way to work Tuesday. A continuing series of storms brought more than a half inch of additional rain, following an inch of rain that fell Monday. Wind gusts were measured as high as 28 mph at Pearson Field. Localized problems, such as flooded streets, were reported. Today's forecast calls for slightly less rain and wind. Photo Gallery

Southwest Washington’s mountain snowpack continues to gain ground after registering alarmingly low levels earlier this winter.

As of Tuesday morning, snowpack in the Lower Columbia basin stood at 71 percent of normal for this time of year — a number that’s likely to rise after another potent storm took aim at the Northwest on Tuesday.

The Lower Columbia snowpack was 59 percent of normal last week, and just 33 percent of normal in early January. An unusually dry December and January left much of the region far below average. Areas of southern Oregon continue to struggle despite recent gains.

Most parts of Washington have seen their snowpack levels recover to about 70 to 90 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. One area, the Lower Snake basin of Southeast Washington, was actually above normal as of Tuesday.

Mountain snowpack is a major driver of regional stream flows, reservoirs and water supply during the dry season.

Southwest Washington's mountain snowpack continues to gain ground after registering alarmingly low levels earlier this winter.

As of Tuesday morning, snowpack in the Lower Columbia basin stood at 71 percent of normal for this time of year -- a number that's likely to rise after another potent storm took aim at the Northwest on Tuesday.

The Lower Columbia snowpack was 59 percent of normal last week, and just 33 percent of normal in early January. An unusually dry December and January left much of the region far below average. Areas of southern Oregon continue to struggle despite recent gains.

Most parts of Washington have seen their snowpack levels recover to about 70 to 90 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. One area, the Lower Snake basin of Southeast Washington, was actually above normal as of Tuesday.

Mountain snowpack is a major driver of regional stream flows, reservoirs and water supply during the dry season.

-- Eric Florip

— Eric Florip

SEATTLE — After a relatively dry start to winter that had some people worrying about the mountain snowpack, the season has taken a more familiar look with a parade of mid-February storms marching across Washington, bringing strong winds, steady rains and heavy mountain snow.

About 3 feet of snow had fallen since Friday at Snoqualmie Pass, and another 2 to 4 feet were expected by Thursday, said Chris Burke, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle.

“We’ve been getting pounded in the mountains,” he said. “We’ve been getting a storm once every 24 hours since Friday.”

Many skiers who have been waiting for the snow were thwarted from reaching the Cascade slopes Monday and Tuesday because of intermittent closures on Stevens and Snoqualmie passes.

A winter storm warning was in effect until this morning.

The rain at lower elevations is filling Western Washington rivers, and the weather service issued flood warnings on the Chehalis, Skookumchuck and Skokomish rivers. Any flooding would likely be minor, Burke said.

Forecasters also warned of high winds Tuesday on the south Washington coast, but that’s not that unusual for this time of year, Burke said.

Tuesday’s storm will be followed by another vigorous frontal system tonight and Thursday, the weather service said.

The storm parade may pause this weekend. There’s a chance of partly sunny days, which may allow the skiers and boarders to reach the slopes.

The mountain snowpack that had been around 50 percent of normal on Feb. 1 has climbed to about 80 percent in three weeks, Burke said. And it will likely continue to accumulate into the early spring.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Burke said.

“We call this reversion to the mean,” he said. “If you take a long enough period, everything is always average.”

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