Sierra snow pack up 80 percent from last week, but still below normal

Mar 5, 2018 at 11:00am

By Paul Rogers, Bay Area News Group

Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts, including Heavenly, received roughly 5 feet of snow between Thursday and Saturday, the biggest storm of the year in an otherwise dry season. 

Last week’s major snowstorms brought a welcome change to the Sierra Nevada Range — the source of nearly one-third of California’s water — boosting the overall snowpack by nearly 80 percent.

But despite the blizzards dumping 5 to 8 feet of fresh snow, the overall snowpack remains well below normal. Last Monday, the statewide snowpack was at 22 percent of the historic average. On Monday, it had increased to 37 percent.

“We’re still far below normal,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources. “Today is barely a third of what it should be on this date. Although the storms were notable compared with the extraordinarily dry month of February, they were not a game-changer. Californians are still encouraged to make water conservation a way of life.”

The snow water equivalent of the snowpack a week ago, meaning the amount of water in any given area if the snow was all melted, jumped from 5.3 inches last Monday to 9.5 inches on Monday, an increase of 79.2 percent.

But the historic average is 30 inches by April 1. To reach that level, the state would need another four or five storms like last week’s to hit before the end of the month. The chances of that are about 1 in 50, according to the National Weather Service office in Reno.

Still, because of the very wet winter last year — the wettest in 20 years — reservoirs around California remain full or near full, giving the state a cushion this summer against major water shortages.


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