What a difference two weeks makes.
The assault of cold weather and snow brought major improvement to Oregon’s snowpack and water supply after earlier concerns about drought.
On Feb. 15, in the midst of one of the warmest winters on record, spring flowers were blooming and many ski areas were barely able to operate.
But two weeks of winter storms doubled snowpack in many parts of the Oregon mountains. Mountain passes have seen anywhere from 30 to 50 inches of new snow.
“We could very well have a near-normal spring and summer in Northern Oregon,” said Scott Oviatt, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The second half of February has been key.”
Snowpack in the Willamette and Mount Hood basins is now 66 and 78 percent of normal, respectively, compared to 36 to 47 percent on Feb. 15.
The influx of snow brought improvement to most of the state. But there remain some areas, mostly in southeast Oregon, that remain likely to face water shortages.
Klamath, Lake and Harney counties, along with the Owyhee Basin, remain less than half of normal.
“The problem is that the areas that rely on snowpack the most — on the east side of the state where they need snowpack for irrigation — they have very little snowpack,” Oviatt said. “There are a number of areas that rely on snowpack for irrigation, and this year, they might not have that.”
The most noticeable impact of the additional snowpack has been in winter recreation.
Hoodoo Ski Area, for example, has received more than 30 inches in just seven days, bumping its base up to 70 inches. It hovered between 20 and 30 inches much of the winter.
“This recent snowfall has contributed to the very best conditions and deepest base of the season,” Hoodoo Ski Area said in a news release.
All of Oregon’s major ski areas remain open, except Willamette Pass.
Many of Oregon’s sno-parks are also healthy-looking for the first time this season. Near Salem, Maxwell and Big Springs sno-parks both have 35 to 40 inches, after much of the winter having as little as 4 to 8 inches.