Whether the latest snowstorm is considered significant or pedestrian, boon or bane is all about the frame of reference.
Take the National Weather Service’s records of the storm, which started Tuesday night and continued through the early afternoon with a mixture of snow, freezing rain and sleet.
As of late Wednesday morning, meteorologist Marc Austin said the service had recorded 1.6 inches in Pendleton and 1.1 inches in Hermiston. Austin said most of the region ranged between 1-2 inches.
The Pendleton airport’s inch count was good to establish a snowfall record for March 6 and the snow depth — which the service had never recorded above 3 inches in March — is now at 8 inches.
Since the most recent snowstorm is providing the lion’s share of snowfall for the month, Pendleton hasn’t yet repeated February by rewriting the record books.
But whether Pendleton has a shot at breaking the all-time record is a matter of which measuring instrument the weather service uses.
The service’s instrument at the airport has a March record of 2.8 inches in 2008, suggesting one more decently sized snowstorm could push 2019 over the top.
But the weather service has a second instrument in Pendleton that has records going back to the late 19th century. That instruments suggests the March record was set all the way back in 1897, when it recorded 12.7 inches of snow.
While winter snow could help farmers with their water supply in the warm weather months, how much the current snow is helping their growth depends on the crop.
Mary Corp, director of the Columbia Basin Agriculture Research Center, said the snow has been used to the advantage of wheat growers.
“We’re happy for the snow cover to protect the wheat crop, but we do need it to blow away,” she said.
A mild winter up to the point when it started snowing heavily in February, Corp said the snow protected wheat from the harsh winter winds, which can damage the crop’s leaves.
Corp said the best scenario for wheat farmers going forward is for there to be a gradual melting of the snow in the coming weeks.
Since the ground didn’t freeze over before the snow hit, Corp said the soil should be able to absorb the moisture from the resulting snowmelt.
On the other hand, if an unexpectedly warm wind causes the temperature to rise by 10 or 20 degrees, a rapid snow melt could cause flooding and soil movement.
It’s a different story on the west side of the county, where irrigated agriculture is more prominent.
While potato and pea farmers might start seeding their land in February or March, Corp said those growers will have to hold off until the snow is cleared.
Luckily for both sets of farmers — and residents tired of the constant precipitation — the forecast is calling for slightly warmer temperatures and drier weather.
The weather service is expecting snow and ice storms on Wednesday night, although snow and ice accumulation is supposed to be minimal. The anticipated weather for the coming week is supposed to range from the mid- to high 30s.