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Winter weather in the forecast
Any increase in lake level due to storm is welcome, BOR spokesman says
by ELON GLUCKLICH, Herald and News 2/15/11
Winter weather is back in the Klamath Basin.
A storm system dumping 3 to 6 inches of snow is expected to pass through the area today and Wednesday.
The system puts an end to several weeks without precipitation in the region. Snow showers were expected to take hold over the Basin late Monday.
“The storm system started in the Pacific Ocean and is moving northeast off the California Coast,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Woodhead.
Woodhead said she wasn’t sure how much snow is expected to stick. Temperatures this week are forecast in the mid-30s to lower 40s — above freezing and potentially warm enough to melt lingering snow.
The brunt of this storm is expected late today and into Wednesday, Woodhead said, adding, “It’s going to continue through Wednesday and possibly into Thursday.”
Warmer temperatures are likely to make the storm less severe than those that brought upward of 9 inches of snow to some parts of the Basin in December and early January. Temperatures then were in the teens and dipped into the negative range overnight.
A welcome sight
For residents who got used to warm weather and sunshine over the past few weeks, the snow could be an unfortunate return to reality. But for local irrigators, the wet weather is a welcome sight.
Rain or snow could increase the water level of Upper Klamath Lake, said Kevin Moore, spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin office.
That would give the agency a buffer against any unforeseen drops in the lake level before the irrigation season starts in April.
“Any increase (in the lake level) we get from storms is going to be welcomed by all the stakeholders,” Moore said.
The Upper Klamath Lake level was at 4,141.3 feet Monday morning, down from 4,142 feet a week earlier.
Flows down river
The drop was due to increased river flows down the Klamath River, which were implemented by the Bureau of Reclamation last Wednesday. River flows were increased from 1,600 cubic feet per second to 5,000 cfs, staying at that level for six hours.
The river’s biological opinion requires increased flows in the spring to flush out disease-causing parasites from the fish population.
The river flow is now being gradually restored to 1,300 cfs. Moore said the river flow was at 2,530 cfs Sunday afternoon and should reach 1,300 cfs around Saturday.
The higher-than-normal flows caused the Link River to elevate temporarily, but that should subside when the flow rate returns to normal, Moore said.
BOR officials are confident the lake will be adequately filled by the start of the irrigation season in April, Moore said.
Precipitation could offer relief for ground wells
Precipitation this week could offer some relief for depleted ground wells in the Klamath Basin, though predicting how significant that impact could be is difficult.
Aquifers are underground layers of rock that can store water to be tapped by well users. Aquifer levels deplete during times of heavy well use and are replenished by rain or snow.
The past year saw a high level of well usage in the Klamath Basin, as irrigators with limited or no access to irrigation water relied on groundwater as a result of drought conditions. That use lowered aquifer levels in parts of the region.
Depending on where the precipitation falls this week, some underground water could be replenished, said John Risley of the U.S. Geological Survey Oregon Science Center.
“The effect (of rain) on aquifers isn’t immediate,” Risley said. “But it would be of great help” for the region’s irrigators.
Page Updated: Wednesday February 16, 2011 03:39 AM Pacific
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