Snowpack above average at end of 2012

Forecasters say La Niña/El Niño won’t be factors this winter

With the 100-inch benchmark already reached on the slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows, ski and snowboard enthusiasts have been licking their chops over one of the snowiest Decembers the mountain has seen in recent years. The resort opened before Thanksgiving and has seen a steady increase in snowpack since.

Over the last 10 days, the solid early season base had more than doubled as a series of cold, wet weather systems passed over the Cascades. For MHM operations, that meant the mountain’s entire portfolio was opened in time for the holiday break; quite a bit earlier than normal. As icing on the cake, the biggest dump of the season came in the form of 17 very merry inches on Christmas Day.

The applaudable start to winter has come in spite of reports in the fall that the Pacific Northwest will likely see a mild El Niño pattern. Caused by above-normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, El Niño conditions typically result in warmer and drier than average conditions for the region. Meteorologists stressed the word “mild” in their interpretations of this year’s data, however, and have stuck fairly close to the word “average” in their forecasting.

Official forecasting for the Pacific Northwest comes each year as the Oregon Chapter American Meteorological Society meets for its annual Winter Weather Forecast Conference. The event draws a few hundred meteorologists, forecasters and other weather aficionados from across the Pacific Northwest to talk trends, review data, prognosticate and summarize last winter’s actual weather to subtly shake salt in the wounds of those who miscalculated the prior year.

The consensus this year amongst the majority of forecasters at the conference is that El Niño/La Niña patterns will not be factors in Pacific Northwest weather this winter and that the door is open for a wide array of conditions over the next few months.

To track snowpack and annual moisture data, National Resource and Conservation Service maintains and monitors weather data sites across the Northwest. In the Mount Hood region, two such sites measure snow depth and snow-water equivalent at undisturbed locations on the south side of the mountain at 5,370 feet and on north side (Red Hill) at 4,410 feet.

Readings as of Friday show Mt. Hood Test Site at 48 inches SWE for the year (129 percent of average) and Red Hill at 51 inches SWE (125 percent of average).

Statewide data for snow-water equivalent shows the Mount Hood region at 132 percent of average. For Oregon snowpack, water supply and climate data, visit

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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