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South Central Idaho Saw "Abysmal" Precipitation In February

Bald Mountain, Sun Valley
Christopher Koppes
Flickr Creative Commons
Stock image of Bald Mountain in Sun Valley.

The month of February was a dry one in much of Idaho. The Wood River and Lost River basins set new record lows for precipitation — some locations saw 20% to 40% of normal amounts.


A snowpack monitoring site at Chocolate Gulch, north of Ketchum, recorded .3 inches of precipitation over the course of the month. The 30-year normal amount for that spot in February is 1.9 inches.

The little snow and rain is concerning because this region has had below average precipitation since last fall, according to Danny Tappa, a senior hydrologist for the National Resource Conservation Service in Boise.

“And then in February we just dug ourselves into a deeper hole because we received abysmal precipitation totals," said Tappa.

The snowpack for south central Idaho is also low -- around 60% of normal. This could mean less late spring runoff for farmers who depend on water from snowpack for irrigation. Those most likely to be affected are farmers downstream of Magic Reservoir in the Shoshone, Jerome and Gooding areas.

The situation could be even tighter for farms near Arco, which is downstream of Mackay Reservoir, Tappa said, “where at this point, it looks like there’s going to be a pretty good chance we’re going to have less water available than the total demand.”

March forecasts are looking up for mountain snowfall, but Tappa said it’ll take more than just one strong month to recover from multiple months of below average precipitation. To avoid water shortages in the Snake River Plain, it's also important for nighttime temperatures to stay cool, Tappa said, to keep snowpack from melting in mountains.


Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.