Despite record precipitation in Seattle, more recent dry heat has caused the mountain snowpack to dwindle, which could present challenges later this summer.

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Although Western Washington set records during a historic rainy season this year, a bout of record-setting dry heat in April and early May has zapped mountain snowpack well below normal levels — fast.

“We’ve experienced record declines of snowpack over the month of April and continuing into May,” said Jeff Marti, an environmental planner with the state Department of Ecology.

On April 1, Marti said, the region had 111 percent of its normal snowpack.

“We’ve gone from 111 to 60 percent in the matter of five weeks,” Marti said Thursday. That number dropped another percentage point, to 59, on Friday. “Our rivers fed by snowpack had a really significant early runoff. The snow is melting faster. It’s going to disappear sooner in the summer. We’re going to get to those low summer flows earlier than normal.”

Blame all the early lie-out-on-the-beach weather throughout the Northwest. At Sea-Tac airport, temperatures were 6.4 degrees above normal April averages, said Johnny Burg, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

“We just had nice, sunny warm days. And we had a bunch of them,” Burg said, noting that we are on pace for the warmest May on record, if the sun-soaking continues.

Even though the snowpack has dwindled, Marti said he’ll take anything over the fierce drought the state faced last year.

“This year, we’re in a situation that obviously has deteriorated quite a bit, but we’re nowhere near the level we were last year,” he said. “Last year (the snowpack) was record low — as bad as it’s ever gotten.”

At this time last year, the snowpack was at about 14 percent of normal, Marti said.

We were essentially zeroed out by June 1,” he said.

It’s not just rapid snowmelt that’s worrisome.

“April precipitation was far below the normal (for) April,” said Teresa Scott, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s water resources coordinator. “Streams that are rain-dominated, like the Chehalis, are low much earlier than we would anticipate.”

Scott said she’s concerned about fish migrations being disrupted by high temperatures and low water levels.

Juvenile salmon migrate out to the ocean from March through the end of May.

“Some of us are holding our breath that water temperatures stay low enough so they can get out to the ocean or that stream flows don’t get too low,” Scott said. In some tributaries of the Columbia River, fish are already getting stranded in pools that have disconnected, Scott said.

She said it’s particularly important that the fish escape to the ocean after last year’s drought, when fish died en masse, particularly in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

“We had bad conditions for spawning fish. We had low production. You want everything to make it out so we can recover those populations,” she said.

Hundreds of thousands of fish died last year in warm water that blocked migration.

“There’s not a lot we can do for fish and wildlife when there’s low water or warm water conditions,” she said.

Scott said last year’s drought caused many other animals to struggle.

Deer passed along a disease toward the end of summer because so many were congregating around small pools of water, she said.

A Spokane-area woman couldn’t keep moose out of her kiddie pool, Scott said, because the giant creatures were looking for a place to cool down and her pool was apparently one of the only options.

Crops should also fare better this year, Marti said, after drought forced agricultural water restrictions last summer.

“The Yakima Basin this summer is in much better shape,” he said. The latest estimates show junior water-rights holders will receive about 85 percent of the normal water supply, he said. Past 70 percent of normal, things get quite difficult for them, he said, and last year dipped well below that mark, he said.

Marti said it’s unlikely that cities will see mandatory water rationing this summer.

Last year, people used lots of water and the supply was at a historic low, but cities “were able to get through the summer without going through mandatory conservation. Those big municipalities are very resilient in times of drought,” he said.

A committee that meets in early June will decide whether to formally declare a drought for any region in the state.

Scott said back-to-back years of record-setting weather have made her appreciate future challenges.

“It’s just made me much more respectful or aware of what climate change is going to be doing to us,” she said. “It’s happening right now, and that’s pretty tough.”