January Storms Raised the Sierra Nevada Snowpack to Near Normal Levels

WeatherBrains | | WeatherWeather
snowpack, california
Department of Water Resources staff conducts 2019’s second snow survey at Phillips Station. Credit: DWR/2019

January storms raised the vital Sierra Nevada snowpack to near normal for this time of year, an important development for California’s water supply, state officials said Thursday after the second survey of the winter.

The Tahoe Daily Tribune reported that the snowpack was 98 percent of average to date and 71 percent of average for the entire season, which usually sees maximum accumulation by April 1, the California Department of Water Resources said.

“This is a significant increase since the last survey,” said John King, a water resources engineer who conducted a manual survey of a snow course at Phillips Station, one of the hundreds of locations measured.

At the site, the snow depth measured 50 inches with a snow-water equivalent of 18 inches.

On Jan. 3, the measurements were 25.5 inches and 9 inches, respectively. And on Feb. 1, 2018, Phillips Station had a snow-water equivalent only 14 percent of average. When the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts in spring and summer it provides about 30 percent of California’s water needs. Persistent drought has also dried out trees and brush, contributing to severe wildfires.

The measurement came as wet and snowy January ended with yet another storm impacting the state and another, potentially more potent, tempest following about a day behind. Downtown San Francisco received more than a half-inch (1.25 centimeters) by early morning before the storm spread southeastward, causing roadway flooding and small debris flows.

Southeast of Los Angeles residents were ordered to evacuate areas of Riverside County near mountain slopes burned bare by a wildfire last summer. Authorities ordered long stretches of beaches and piers closed along the Southern California coast because of lightning, and a JetBlue flight headed to New York safely returned to Los Angeles International Airport after the crew reported the aircraft was struck by lightning.

And following this weekend’s huge snowfall, the snowpack is expected to look even healthier.

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