GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. – Snowpack levels on Mount Hood have only been this low in December four other times in history.
That is, at least since snowpack levels started getting measured and recorded decades ago.
Hydrologists measured the snowpack near Timberline Lodge Tuesday morning and said it was at 40 percent of normal for the start of the season. They also noted that if you take the other six measuring sites in the Mt. Hood/Sandy River region into account, snowpack levels are actually only 23 percent of normal.
But all that can change with even just one big storm in January.
“The good news is we still have time to recover, we’re doing our snow dance!” Hydrologist Julie Koeberle said with a chuckle.
Even with the difficult trek through the snow, Koeberle said she loves her job. But she loved it more at this time last year, when she had 8 feet of snow to measure.
“Right now it’s at 28 inches, with 12.4 inches of water content,” she explained.
That’s not a good start for a snowpack that people count on for many things, from drinking water to hydroelectric power and farming to fisheries.
“I’m not too concerned yet. If January turns out to be another dry month, then I may change my thinking,” she said. “At least there’s enough to make it still fun to ski on.”
In January 2013, snowpack at the same site near Timberline was measured at about 88 percent of normal. A big storm had just dumped 32 inches of fresh snow.
(KGW reporter Tim Gordon contributed to this report.)