Drastic Weather Impacting Local Economy
By Amber Ford
While Christmas break is normally one of the busiest times on the mountain, Christmas 2023 proved otherwise. With abnormally warm and dry temperatures, local businesses saw a shift in sales as many vacationers canceled trips due to lack of snow on Mt. Hood.
According to Ivory Hobbs of Hobbs Housekeeping, the lack of snow in December had a serious negative impact on her business. “We lost over $2,500 due to December cancelations,” Hobbs said. Relying mostly on the heavy tourism seasons, Hobbs’ cleaning company, mostly relying on that of vacation homes, took a significant hit over Christmas break. “While we do have clients whose houses are regularly booked which gives us a consistent income, the loss we took over Christmas break will have a huge impact on our small business,” Hobbs said.
While local restaurants, resorts and bars have been trying to rebuild from Covid and power outages associated with wildfire season, the lack of snow during Christmas break added more stress to sales during, what should be, a heavily trafficked month. Many local servers and bartenders saw a decrease in tips and wages as hours were cut and customers were few.
Not only was the lack of snow and tourism detrimental to local businesses and revenue to the area, it can also have a huge impact once temperatures rise and fire season approaches. According to Mt. Hood National Forest Public Affairs officer, Heather Ibsen, lack of snowfall can have more of an impact on the summer season than many realize. “Currently, the U.S. Drought Monitor network considers our area to be in a drought. If total snowfall and the build-up of the seasonal snowpack is below average then drought conditions could be expected to persist,” Ibsen said. “Naturally, the potential for wildfire and heightened fire behavior is greater during drought conditions. Also, when that snowpack melts off can impact fire season, as fire danger begins to increase as snow melts, summer heats up, and vegetation dries out,” Ibsen added.
Increased precipitation throughout the remainder of winter and into spring is not only detrimental for those whom rely on the mountain and its business for tourism and work, but also for the overall health and wellness of the Mt. Hood National Forest. “In our neck of the woods snowfall is an important component of total precipitation. It’s a primary factor in the hydrologic and climatic regime we live in,” Ibsen said. Average precipitation for the Mt. Hood Villages can vary, depending on elevation. Soil and Water Program Manager for the Mt. Hood National Forest, Todd Reinwald, explains that total snowfall for the villages should average 16 inches. “It’s not uncommon for a snow cover of several feet deep to develop that can last 2 to 3 weeks,” Reinwald said. “When that happens, it could be considered by some to be a “decent” snowfall,” Reinwald added.
As winter storms hit the Mt. Hood Villages and Mt. Hood National Forest with high winds, ice and increased perception in a brief week which was followed by two intense ice storms, businesses continued to battle power outages, flooding and damaged equipment, which did nothing but add to increased financial stresses. Although recent storms have helped push precipitation levels up, it remains to be seen if this storm and the upcoming winter months will positively push precipitation levels to a normal or above average number.