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Posts tagged: snow

How USDA’s Snow Survey Program Got Started

James E. Church pictured in 1920. Courtesy of University of Reno, Nevada.

James E. Church pictured in 1920. Courtesy of University of Reno, Nevada.

James E. Church was a man who answered his calling. Like a real-life Indiana Jones, Professor Church pursued adventure around the world, ending a war and helping to found the Snow Survey Program on the way. Every hero needs a cause; Church found his in snow.

Born in Michigan in 1869, Church moved west in 1901 to teach classics and art history at the University of Nevada, Reno. The nearby Sierra Nevada fascinated him. He hiked there often, publishing his mountaineering accounts in the Sierra Club newsletter. Read more »

Braving Frigid Alaska Elements, Federal Workers Volunteer for the ‘Toughest 300 Miles in Dog Racing’

Musher Heidi Sutter and dog sled team approach the Sourdough checkpoint for a mandatory rest period during the Copper Basin 300 dog sled race.  Federal agency land management volunteers met in Glenallen, population less than 500, to lend support for event success. (Photo courtesy of Photography on the Kenai/Robert Parsons)

Musher Heidi Sutter and dog sled team approach the Sourdough checkpoint for a mandatory rest period during the Copper Basin 300 dog sled race. Federal agency land management volunteers met in Glenallen, population less than 500, to lend support for event success. (Photo courtesy of Photography on the Kenai/Robert Parsons)

Think Alaska in the winter: a large land canvas of powdery, granular or icy snow and days of often very, very cold weather.

With those conditions, it’s off to the races for some of the heartiest Alaskan sled dogs and volunteers like U.S. Forest Service employee Carol Teitzel, who works in the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region and who lent her support to the excitement and challenge of this year’s Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race.

The 310-mile competition counts as a qualifying race for the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod, the most popular dog sled race, and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, sometimes called the world’s toughest dog sled race. Read more »

Do YOU Have a Plan to Keep Food Safe during Severe Weather?

This year has been an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anyplace.  Nearly every region of the country experienced some form of extreme weather event, including wildfires in California, extreme cold and snow through the Midwest and East, and destructive tornadoes in the South and Central Plains.

All of these events resulted in the loss of power for hundreds of thousands, and without power comes food safety challenges.  The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this.  Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick. Read more »

Measuring the Value of Snow

A Portland television reporter and NRCS public affairs specialist Spencer Miller join NRCS snow surveyors to measure snow and collect data.

A Portland television reporter and NRCS public affairs specialist Spencer Miller join NRCS snow surveyors to measure snow and collect data.

A stormy February doubled the Mount Hood snowpack from five feet to ten – a relief for northern Oregon, which has been unseasonably dry. Hydrologists have told me about dramatic recoveries, but this is the first time I’ve witnessed it.

I recently joined Julie Koeberle, one of our hydrologists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, to collect data that would be released in the March forecast from the agency’s National Water and Climate Center.

We snow-shoed out to the site and weighed the snow, and a local reporter tagged along to see how it’s done. Weighing snow allows surveyors to calculate the snow-water equivalent, in other words, how much water is in the snow. Light, fluffy snow contains less than dense, packed snow. Read more »

Recent Forecast Shows Limited Water Supply in Westernmost States

Hydrologists prepare to measure snowpack. (NRCS photo)

Hydrologists prepare to measure snowpack. (NRCS photo)

Limited water supplies are predicted in many areas west of the Continental Divide, according to this year’s second forecast by the National Water and Climate Center of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Right now, snow measuring stations in California, Nevada and Oregon that currently don’t have any snow, and a full recovery isn’t likely, the center’s staff said.

USDA is partnering with states, including those in the West, to help mitigate the severe effects of drought on agriculture. Read more »

Enjoy Winter on a National Forest, but Don’t Become an Avalanche Statistic

Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back, not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear. (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back, not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear. (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

It’s early into the winter sports season and already there are stories of avalanche victims on the nation’s slopes.

But there are some steps you can take to keep your name and those of your companions out of the statistics record.

The U.S. Forest Service is a partner in the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, an effort to encourage children and adults to take lessons to improve their skills. Knowing about avalanches is vital to your safety. Read more »