Utah's snowpack still far from normal, but late February storms help

Saturday , February 24, 2018 - 3:15 PM

Northern Utah’s mountains saw generous snow accumulation from this week’s storm, but it might be too little and too late.

Snowbasin resort reported 21 inches of snow over 48 hours from a storm that lasted Thursday through Friday and followed another generous President’s Day storm. Powder Mountain reported 3 feet of snow in the past week. The northern Wasatch Front saw between 1 and 8 inches, according to the National Weather Service. That might be enough to relieve snow lovers, but the region’s snowpack totals and water outlook remain dismal.

“This (storm) certainly helps, but we’re still very much in a deficit snowpack-wise,” said Troy Brosten, hydrologist with the Utah Snow Survey. “To get back to normal, we really need 3 to 10 feet.”

The chance of that happening is less than 10 percent, Brosten said. 

The Utah Snow Survey is a division of the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, which collects data on precipitation and the water stored in snowpacks throughout the West. Their most recent measurements remain bleak. The Weber-Ogden river basin sits at 54 percent of the 30-year average for snowpack this time of year. That’s actually slightly worse than things looked at the beginning of the month, when the Utah Snow Survey measured the Weber-Ogden basin at 58 percent of average on Feb. 1. The basin has seen 61 percent of its normal precipitation this water year, which starts in October. 

“We’ve got some more storms coming in the next couple days, so that could bump us up more in percentages,” Brosten said.

Best-case scenario, Brosten figures some heavy snowstorms could take the region to around 70 percent of normal, which he says is “better than 50 percent.”

At this time last year, the Weber-Ogden basin was at 172 percent of normal. 

Rather than snow depth, those percentages calculate the “snow water equivalent” of the basin’s snow, or how much water the snowpack holds. When Brosten says the basin needs around 3 to 10 feet of snow to get back to normal, he’s assuming there’s roughly 1 inch of water for every foot of snow.

“So if you have wet snow, you need less feet of snow,” he said, “but we still need a lot.”

Things look rosier for the Bear River basin and the Northeastern Uintahs, which are at a respective 75 percent and 82 percent of normal. The snow situation has notably improved for Southern Utah, with several basins bumping up above the 50 percent range, although the region’s winter accumulation still sits far below average.

Contact Reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook.com/leiainthefield or on Twitter @LeiaLarsen. 

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