More rain and snow needed to pull Idaho out of drought conditions

By Katija Stjepovic, Idaho Press

The snow pack in the Payette River drainage that provides irrigation water for the Emmett Valley is above normal for this time of year after last week’s storm. As of January 1 the snowpack levels for the Payette drainage are reported at 112 percent.

The Treasure Valley, and many parts of Idaho, has already seen numerous inches of snowfall this season, but it is too soon to say if it is enough to dig Idaho out of the current drought conditions.

The Boise Airport recorded 15 inches of snowfall in December. According to meteorologist Chuck Redman with the National Weather Service, Boise Airport’s average snowfall is anywhere from five to six inches.

“We are doing really good right now,” Redman said.

On Saturday, Brundage Mountain reported that the mountain has already gotten 104 inches of snow, making December 2021 the second-highest recorded December snowfall in over a decade.

While many parts of Idaho saw above-average snowpack for the month of December, Redman said it’s too soon to say if the winter season will dig Idaho out of current drought conditions. As of Dec. 28, over 92% of Idaho was in a moderate drought condition; just over 63% of Idaho was experiencing severe drought levels.

“Snowpack is above and above normal, we were kind of in that area last year but then it kind of cut things off, and dried out and warmed up really fast,” Redman said.

According to Redman, the Boise National Forest saw snowpack levels 110% above normal during the month of December. While other parts of the gem state are seeing increased levels of snowpack, Redman said the concern is how long the snow will stick around.

“If it melts off too fast, it just goes right into the reservoirs, we want the snowpack to stay high so we can keep that moisture in the mountains, the slower it comes off the better,” Redman said.

Redman added that a big contributor to Idaho’s current drought conditions was the short duration that snow came and went during the 2020-2021 winter season, leaving little to no moisture in the forest.

“It’s kind of two-fold, we need the snow but we also need the spring precipitation as well to kind of help each other out for the forests,” Redman said. “The March, April, May time period, that’s really critical to kind of help the mountains along through the rest of the summer.”

While another storm is expected to bring a couple of inches to the Treasure Valley and a couple of feet to mountain areas, he is not confident that 2022 will be a repeat of Idaho’s ‘’Snowmageddon’.

“We are in the same pattern, still a la Nina but back in 2016-2017, we already had a whole bunch of snow on the ground already,” he said. “This year if you go back to November, we were three to five degrees above normal and then the snow came in December.”

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