- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A mild winter is wreaking havoc with the mountain snowpack that is supposed to provide water during dry summer months.

The February forecast by the Natural Resources Conservation Service said rain and warm temperatures found the state’s winter snowpack at only 39 percent of normal. The actual amount varied by region.

The state would have to receive well over 200 percent of normal snowfall between now and April 1 to have a chance of catching up, the agency said.

Snow that falls in the mountains during the winter typically melts slowly during the spring and summer months, providing water for much of the state. A lack of winter snowpack can lead to drought.

“Again, rain and warm temperatures dominated the region over the oh-so desired snow,” Scott Pattee, the agency’s water supply specialist in Mount Vernon, said in a press release.

“With mountain temperatures once again reaching new highs and setting new records, our already meager snowpack took a crushing sack in the backfield for a net loss of over 15 percent from last month,” Pattee said.

Snow surveyors from around the state reported many long-term sites showed little or no snow during recent visits, Pattee said. Sites that would normally have five to eight feet of snow and only be accessible by helicopter were driven or walked to by surveyors, he said.

The outlook is grim. Weather forecasts call for warm and wet conditions through the middle of February, with warm and dry conditions expected after that, Pattee said.

Snow levels have been particularly low this winter.

Snoqualmie Pass, for instance, has received just 74 inches of snow so far. The current record for lowest snowfall there is 191 inches in 1977.

Among the state’s major river basins: north Puget Sound basins were at 58 percent of normal; south Puget Sound basins were at 35 percent; lower Columbia basins were at 27 percent; the east slopes of the Cascades and Yakima region were at 42 percent; the Wenatchee area was at 65 percent.

Snowpack in the Spokane River basin was at 56 percent, while the Walla Walla River basin was at 54 percent.

The Olympic Peninsula reported just 11 percent of normal snowpack.

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