El Niño? No problem

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SANDPOINT — January was warmer and drier than normal in the Panhandle, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s water supply outlook for Idaho.

End-of-month precipitation totals ranged from 55-75 percent of average. Feburary 1 water year-to-date precipitation totals were around 80 percent of average, NRCS said in the outlook.

“The absence of northwest storm tracks that usually bring moisture to the Panhandle left the February 1 snowpack totals at 75 to 85 percent of normal for this time of year,” the report said.

As of Tuesday, most sites in the area picked up an additional 1/2 inch to 2 inches of snow/water equivalent, boosting snowpack totals slightly closer to normal, according to NRCS.

As of February, the combined storage for the region’s reservoirs is near-normal at 104 percent. The area’s natural lakes remain lower than normal for this time of year, with lakes Pend Oreille and Priest at 75 percent and 93 percent of normal, respectively. Lake Coeur d’Alene is 53 percent of normal.

The service said streamflow forecasts based on Feb. 1 conditions indicate about 80-percent-of-average flows for all forecast points.

“Water supplies should be adequate, but more snowfall is needed in the next few months,” NRCS said.

Statewide, January’s weather varied across the state and brought storms in from the northwest and southwest.

Temperatures were generally cold enough to allow snow to fall in the higher elevations, but rain fell in the low and mid-elevations.

Near the end of January, a major high-pressure ridge started building over the West that brought near record cold temperatures to the eastern U.S. and warm sunny blue skies to the West.

“Luckily, it only took a few storms to push the ridge out and open the gates for storms to track into Idaho in early February.

“The good news is the abundant snow that arrived since February 1 that is benefiting many basins across the state, especially the Little Wood, Big Lost and Mud Lake areas,” NRCS said in the report.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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