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Storms may not relieve Northwest water worries

GRANTS PASS — The rain and snow falling across Oregon are far from enough to break the drought.

Snowpack levels across most of the state Friday were less than half of normal, and the drought index was still severe to moderate.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sandler says it will take near-record rain and snow for the next three months to get things back to normal.

"This is all good news this week," he said of continuing storms predicted for the next week or more. "The other side of the coin is it's just a little bit of help. If we can get a few more wetter weeks like this one over the next few months, that would help a lot."

The three-month forecast offers little hope, with an even chance for above-normal, below-normal, and just plan normal precipitation.

Remote-sensing sites managed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service show things worst in the south, where snowpack amounts in the Rogue-Umpqua, Klamath and Lake County basins are 22 percent of normal.

"We've got a pretty big hole we have to fill here," said Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, which represents farmers on a federal irrigation project south of Klamath Falls. "And we definitely need Mother Nature's to help do it."

The Willamette Basin from Portland to Eugene is at 32 percent of normal snowpack. The Upper Deschutes-Crooked Basin around Bend is 37 percent. The Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes basins were at 69 percent.

Things were best in the northeast around Baker City, Pendleton and Enterprise, where the snowpack was 70 percent to 77 percent.

The storm track wasn't carrying as much rain and snow into Washington, where the snowpack was better but not great. Snowpack levels ranged from 32 percent of normal on the Olympic Peninsula, to 50 percent on the Lower Columbia, 65 percent in southern Puget Sound, to 63 percent on the northern Puget Sound. The Yakima Basin ranged from 57 percent to 62 percent. Spokane was at 78 percent. And the Lower Snake was the highest at 86 percent.

The drought index was moderate across most of Washington.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs around the Willamette Basin were low, but not that far off their fill schedules, said Laurie Nicholas, the reservoir regulation team chief. While they were only 13 percent full, overall, they were 2 percent above the curve for filling and flood control.