Southern Oregon is saturated after snowy, rainy winter
Mar. 21, 2017
MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Southern Oregon has received above average rainfall and snowpack totals since October, according to weather data.
The National Weather Service has measured 21.5 inches of precipitation at the Medford airport since the water year began on Oct. 1, reported The Mail Tribune (http://bit.ly/2nODHym ). That's 8.33 inches above average for the period.
Snowpack numbers range from 120 inches at Crater Lake to 175 inches at Mount Ashland.
The past winter might not be remembered for any catastrophic moments, but hydrologist in Grants Pass said the sustained precipitation itself is noteworthy.
"Things stand out when there's an extreme storm," said Chris Park, a forest hydrologist at the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. "But I can't honestly remember in recent history anything like we're seeing right now. We're, on average, 150 percent of normal."
Despite the above average statistics, National Weather Service hydrologist Spencer Higginson said he doesn't expect flooding to be an issue unless there is unseasonable warmth or a long, heavy rain.
When the snowpack melts, moisture sinks into the soil until the groundwater level is maxed out. What doesn't refreeze then heads downhill.
"If you think of it like a sponge, you can pour water on it and it absorbs to a point and then the water just runs off," Higginson said. "What you lose into the ground takes the burden off the streams, creeks and rivers."
Once the groundwater is at capacity, however, the extra runoff could trigger slides and other issues.
"When roads are cut into hillsides and the bank cut gets saturated, that's when you see failures and slides onto the road," said Park, the Rogue River hydrologist. "We keep getting fluctuating weather with the ground supersaturated. The snow level drops, warm fronts follow, and that keeps the cycle going."
Park also pointed out that it is much easier to receive federal funding to repair damage from a catastrophic storm than from a slow, steady drip.
"They come to me when there are road failures, and I can't show a 25-year event," Park explained.
Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/