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Oregon’s Snowpack Was Worryingly Low Even Before the Recent Heat Wave

“Surface water is what makes our area thrive.”

During last month’s heat wave, snow rapidly gave way high up on the northeast slopes of Mount Hood.

The triple-digit temperatures melted high-up snow pack and sent it rushing down the mountain, flooding roads and causing campsite evacuations.

The effects the event had on Oregon’s drought are likely more lasting. That high-elevation snow would typically trickle down the mountain throughout the season, nourishing local ecosystems.

“That’s a water supply that would enhance or continue stream flows throughout the summer months,” says Scott Oviatt, snow supervisor for Natural Resources Conservation Service Oregon. “With that rapid melt-out and washing down stream, it makes it unavailable for future use, so it is a concern.”

But even before the rapid melt on Mount Hood, Oregon’s water reserves were disconcertingly low. By that point, the area’s snow pack had already melted out a few weeks early, and the whole region had been experiencing record-low precipitation for months.

“We as a society are facing challenging times responding to these widely variable conditions, plus the lack of surface water,” says Oviatt. “Surface water is what makes our area thrive.”

WW talked to Oviatt about the effects the recent heat wave had on Oregon and what that could mean in the long run.