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Winter disappointment

By Thursday morning, Southern Oregon can expect to have seen another underwhelming storm event come and pass, bringing with it Spartan amounts of new snow and ushering the "D-word" back into the weather conversation.

Snow that fell in the Cascade and Siskiyou mountains Wednesday barely — if at all — moved the snow gauges, which show snowpack levels plunging when they should be rising, and there's no white knight in sight to save them.

"There's a little bit of snow in the forecast, but it's just a couple inches here or there," says Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service Oregon Snow Survey program.

"It's really put a damper on accumulation. If things don't turn around soon, 'drought' will be in our vocabulary," Koeberle says.

While snow was still falling late Wednesday at higher elevations, snow-survey sites, such as the one at Annie Springs south of Crater Lake National Park, showed no uptick in accumulations to date, according to the National Weather Service.

"It's all pretty minor accumulations, but it was generally predicted to be pretty minor," says Brett Lutz, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Medford.

Based on the forecast, Lutz had expected to wake up today seeing 4 to 6 inches of snow at Crater Lake.

"My sense is it's going to be more like 2 to 4 inches," Lutz says.

The Rogue/Umpqua Basin snowpack has dwindled in the past two weeks from 43 percent of average to 35 percent of average, with the snowpack now sporting an anemic 71 percent of average water equivalency for mid-February, the NRCS reports.

The Klamath Basin was down to 28 percent of average, and the Willamette Valley was down to one-third of normal, NRCS statistics show.

The best snowpack in the state Wednesday was in northeastern Oregon, where it was listed Wednesday at 57 percent of average, and it was the only area in the state above 50 percent of average.

The statewide average Wednesday was 38 percent of normal, Koeberle says.

Flakes were falling Wednesday afternoon at Lake of the Woods, where the 1.5 inches of snow that fell there throughout the day gave the resort all of ... 1.5 inches of snow.

"That's all we got on the ground here," resort co-owner George Gregory says. "It's just enough to make the roads messy."

At 5,000-foot elevation, the lake could be in for a little more before this storm passes, Gregory says.

"If the snow keeps up, we may get the 3 inches that's in the forecast," Gregory says.

This year's La Nina form of ocean and air currents led to a prediction of a cooler, wetter winter for Oregon, but 2018 has begun with the opposite. A spate of snow opened Mt. Ashland Ski Resort in late January, but the resort closed Feb. 5 after only eight days.

The weather service's Climate Prediction Center still calls for La Nina conditions and a cooler and wetter than average late winter.

However, streamflow forecasts for summer are now sitting well below average statewide, and they are destined to stay there "unless we have some sort of miracle March," Koeberle says.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

A truck drives through fresh snow nine miles up Dead Indian Memorial Road Wednesday afternoon. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]
Mt. Ashland Ski Area saw a mixture of rain, frozen rain and snow Wednesday. [Mail Tribune / Andy Atkinson]