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Lake Cle Elum is shown covered in ice on Feb. 4. Above average precipitation and solid snowpack could bring the region into summer with a solid water supply.

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As the region continues to get blasted by snow, the inclement weather translates to a solid buildup of snowpack and water supply for area irrigators going into spring.

According to the Feb. 17 Bureau of Reclamation Yakima Project system status report, current project storage is at 106% of average. The total capacity for the five reservoirs in the system stands at 57% of capacity. Lake Kachess currently stands at 66%, Lake Keechelus at 60%, and Cle Elum at 47% of total capacity. Total acre-feet in the project is currently 611,183, up from approximately 586,000 at the beginning of the month.

Although lagging slightly so far in February, total precipitation for the year is performing strongly. The report states that precipitation is currently 137% of average, with Feb. 1 to date precipitation coming in at 20.19 inches, or 78% of average.

Snowpack is also looking good, especially in the Upper Yakima River Basin. According to a Feb. 4 BOR River Operations report, Upper Yakima SNOTEL sites are reporting at 98% of average.

Historically, the current storage numbers in the system are approximately on par with 2014 and 2016, and a vast improvement over the last two years. At this time in 2019 and 2020, the system had less than 500,000 acre-feet in storage.

With the large amount of precipitation, observed flow volumes in the system are also coming in above average. The total Yakima System unregulated flow volume from October to January was 495,000 acre-feet, or 114% of average, and the observed flow volume during the same period was 227,000 acre-feet, translating to 110% of average. Flow volume forecasts are projected to be near 100% from February to July, spelling a potentially reliable season for local irrigators.

Weather predictions moving forward in the BOR report calls for continued temperatures coming in at below average and precipitation beginning to transition from above average to average. Although the report says that La Niña conditions are expected to continue through the region with a 95% change of persisting through March, the report calls for a 55% change of transitioning out of the La Niña conditions to a more neutral situation between April and June.

“We seem to have had impressive events the last few years during February,” Extended Range Forecasting Meteorologist Phil Volker said in the report. “Certainly 2018 and 2019, so why not 2021? It will stay with a colder and wet mode for the region as La Niña finally kicks in.”

Reporting for the DR since March 2018. Lover of campfires, black labs and good vibes. Proud Humboldt State alum!

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