Mountain snow: avalanche danger, snowpack help

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) —  When the snow comes down heavy and the wind is strong, avalanche concerns increase. The Northwest Avalanche Center said the biggest concerns are wind slabs — that is, wind-loaded snow on steep slopes below ridges.

There is a “considerable danger” alert in place for the backcountry terrain of Mount Hood until Tuesday

Though there are concerns about avalanches, the snow is bringing a sense of hope for the struggling snowpack.

“Our peak snowpack generally occurs around March 15, so it is a little concerning now being so later in the year to try and catch up,” said Scott Oviatt, the snow survey supervisor for Natural Resources Conservation Service. The recent snow provided a real boost, he said.

“We’ve gone from 47% of normal snowpack to 59% statewide,” Oviatt said. 

For the Willamette Basin, the snowpack in just 5 days went from 44% of normal to more than 60%.

“It will take significant snowfall and cooler temperatures to build that snowpack to near normal levels,” he said.  How significant? The NRCS said we would need about 200% to 300% of normal in the upcoming weeks to catch up to normal by March 15

With the calendar rapidly approaching Spring, the NRCS still believes we can make up for some of that lost time.

“March, April and sometimes into May we can have large storm systems move in. So never say never in this case,” Oviatt said. “Temperature is going to be the driving factor. If it stays cool we can see more snow obviously, but we just need to get those storm impacts.”

‘Somebody finally turned on the faucet for winter’

A week of winter storms left a wonderland for skiers and snowboarders on Mount Hood.

Photojournalist Adam Thompson talked with some people who took advantage of the blue skies and fresh snow at Mount Hood Meadows on Monday.

One person said, “Somebody finally turned on the faucet for winter.”

Photojournalist Adam Thompson’s video report from Mount Hood, February 26, 2018

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