Total precipitation records broken around state

By Ann McCreary

Snowpack around the state remained higher than normal at the beginning of May, because peak snow accumulation and resulting snowmelt runoff occurred almost three weeks later than normal.

Above-normal rainfall also added moisture to the snowpack, which helped increase water density in the snow, according to a state water supply specialist.

Statewide snowpack readings were 125 percent of normal on May 1, said Scott Pattee of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Snowpack in the Methow River basin was 129 percent of normal.

Snow-water content at Salmon Meadows SNOTEL (snowpack measuring station), north of Conconully, was 5.5 inches on May 1. “This site would normally have no snow by May 1,” Pattee said.

April made up for an unseasonably dry March with much above-normal precipitation throughout the entire state, he said. “Many records were broken for total monthly precipitation at both SNOTEL and … weather stations in the state,” Pattee said. “The highest departure from normal was in Winthrop at 288 percent of normal.”

The upper Columbia River basin, which includes the Methow Valley, was at 152 percent of normal precipitation for the month of April.

As a result of heavy snowpack in the northern region of the state, streamflows are predicted to be above or much above average for the May-September period. The Methow River, measured at Pateros, was predicted to have streamflows that are 135 percent of normal in May through September.  Streamflows for the Methow River were 159 percent of normal for the month of April.

The higher-than-normal snowpack and streamflow forecasts are good news for farmers, fish and wildlife, which all depend on a steady supply of melted snow to fill rivers and streams during the hot, dry summer months.

Most current forecasts through mid-May predict above-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation, with a trend towards warm and dry by the end of the month, Pattee said. The National Weather Service three-month forecast calls for above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall.