Winter Marked by Lack of Snow, Lots of Avalanches

Winter Marked by Lack of Snow, Lots of Avalanches

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News Specialist John Daley reportingThis winter is turning out to be not much of a winter. Statewide snowpack is roughly 70 percent of normal.

Although we're getting some fresh snow in the mountains today, we're still nowhere near catching up with what we normally should get.

At times like today, it looks more like Portland, Oregon than Salt Lake City, Utah.

There are three clear weather trends going on right now.

This winter has been warmer than normal. It's been drier than normal. And, surprisingly, the number of avalanches is at a record high.

Snow in mountains -- that's a good thing. But one moderate snowfall does not break a drought.

The experts who watch our water say that's what we need from here until April to break the grip of the drought.

"We have a huge hole to fill in our snowpack and like I say, snowpack is built one flake at a time, and we're just not seeing enough flakes," says Randy Julander, a snow survey supervisors.

"This particular storm, though a welcome respite from what has been going on simply has not been putting a lot down in the mountains," he says.

At Bear Lake, boaters can expect to continue to have to make a long hike to reach the lake, probably for YEARS to come.

"And you can see this particular case that you have 10 to 20 times the reservoir storage to fill that we have forecast for inflow. And that's simply an indication that we're not going to make up much ground on our reservoir storage this year," Julander says.

The other extraordinary thing about this winter is that we've already recorded a record number of human-triggered avalanches.

Amazingly one skier was buried but survived this slide just last week. The cure for the problem: a pair of storms.

"One big storm to cause lots and lots of avalanches, clean out the bad snow that's down near the ground, then build up a nice thick snowpack layer that won't redevelop the weakness," says Tom Kimbrough with the Avalanche Forecast Center.

The current avalanche danger is listed as moderate. But if we keep getting snow, the danger could reach the considerable range. So if you're heading out in the back-country, be careful.

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