By Sam Crispin
The Pigeon Press (Portland, Oregon)
The abnormally warm last few months have many worried that Portland will fall into a drought. According to portlandweather.com, despite ample rainfall, this winter’s record-breaking high temperatures have made for a meager 50% of average annual snowpack on Mt. Hood.
Similarly to Portland, Mt. Hood has had plenty of precipitation, but the moisture has been rain, not the snow that the mountain desperately needs. Not only does this lack of snow make poor conditions for skiing, but also affects Portland’s water supply, which pulls from mountain snowpack.
“The water supply is definitely at risk although currently there is not a huge problem,” Matthew Cullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Portland, said. “We are going to continue to monitor the situation and the amount of precipitation and water we get. The flood control reservoirs are lower than normal for this time of the year, and the forecast shows the reservoirs are going to continue to lower.”
Although Portland’s water supply levels are below normal, Portland is not currently in a drought. Droughts are caused by a lack of rain, or snow for a long period of time, and Portland is still getting rain.
So far this year, the snowpack on Mt. Hood has been far below average, yet there is still the potential for snow. Cullen explained that the possibility of snow is not out of the question.
“We still get storms that give us snow,” Cullen said. “The potential for snow is still around. There is still the possibility for snow in March and April. Plus, we can still get rain from rainfall into the reservoirs. We are not in a drought yet, but it is definitely something to look for this spring.”
Droughts range from Stage 1-5, mild to emergency depending on combined reservoir storage levels. During a stage two drought, measures taken to preserve water include limiting superfluous water use to the residential trash day, as well as enforcing the repair of leaking pipes. Residents should also refrain from using non-recycling decorative fountains, leaving water running from a faucet or hydrant. Pools and hot tubs may only be filled on watering day.
Support is offered for businesses during a drought to help cover financial obligations and operating expenses. A number of small businesses may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) of up to $2 million. As well as financial help, support is offered in the form of emergency water use permits, and temporary drought transfers. These allow for access to water otherwise unavailable during drought conditions.
Portland’s water supply is not alone in suffering from the lack of snow. Ski resorts, such as Mt. Hood Meadows, rely on the snowpack to allow for good skiing. Without snow, these ski resorts attract less customers and consequently lose money.
“”I go up [to Mt. Hood] every weekend with my kids,” Brandy Shrope, a regular visitor to Mt. Hood, said. “We take the ski bus up. It’s been kind of depressing lately. It’s not a good thing when you have to wake up at five am to take a bus to patches of dirt.”
Shrope is not the only one who has been disappointed with the conditions on the mountain this year.
Ben Green, a freshman, traveled to the mountain multiple times in February and saw the snow slowly disappear.
“In February, I went up,” Green said. “Four weeks, each Sunday. Each week was a little worse. It wasn’t really fun up there anymore. Without the snow I didn’t like it. There was not much snow at all and I didn’t have as much fun as I would have.”
Photo Credit: Unsplash