Panhandle’s cup runneth over

Snowpack, water supply off to promising start

SANDPOINT — The Panhandle has received nearly half of its normal annual precipitation in the first three months of the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s water year.

The Hidden Lake and Bear Mountain snow telemetry sites each received more than 40 inches of since the start of the NRCS water year on Oct. 1, 2012.

The region received above-normal precipitation in October, November and December, bringing water year-to-date precipitation since Oct. 1 to 143 percent of normal.

North Idaho snowpack has increased steadily since early November. As of the first of this year, the snowpack is 126 percent of normal in the northern Panhandle.

“There is some water in the bank,” said Ron Abramovich, Idaho NRCS water supply specialist.

Northern Idaho’s reservoirs are in good shape and snow in the high country is waiting to melt and fill them up.

Pend Oreille and Priest lakes are above average, although Lake Coeur d’Alene is below average and waiting for another low-elevation runoff event.

Panhandle streams were flowing above average from the October and November precipitation, while southern Idaho’s streams recovered some from the extremely dry summer. However, those streams remained flowing at average or less prior to the onset of sub-zero temperatures, according to NRCS.

The lack of snowfall below 6,500 feet in central Idaho has resulted in a recession for winter recreation.

“This winter has been unusual in that regard,” the January Water Supply Outlook Report said.

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