To drive across Snoqualmie Pass in mid- to late-Feburary was to play chicken with weather. The pass opened and closed like the Fremont Bridge, as state crews swept and re-swept the suddenly snowy pass. I was fool enough to nearly get stuck twice.
This traveler’s hassle, however, was a golden ticket for Northwest energy generation. On Feb. 4, The Bonneville Power Administration, which supplies about 30 percent of the Northwest’s electricity, estimated the snow-fueled stream flows would be 80 percent of average come spring snowmelt because of an usually dry winter. On Friday, the estimate had risen to 90 percent.
For BPA, which forecasts its surplus power sales, the February storms translate to a $30 million windfall. BPA spokesman Michael Hansen said the figure depends on continued favorable weather and energy market prices. But such a sudden change in snow pack, he said, is unusual.
Click on the regions below to see the change in snowpack since Jan. 1. For comparison, here’s the same graphic from Feb. 18.
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*Snow water equivalent represents the depth of water in the snowpack, if the snowpack were melted, in inches.
Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service. (SEATTLE TIMES / GARLAND POTTS)
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