Mar 29, 2017

What drought? Sierra Nevada snowpack at 164 percent of normal

California
USA
by
Paul Rogers
,
The Mercury News
This March 2, 2017 photo provided by the California National Guard shows a Guard dump truck helping to clear huge snow drifts from the Eastern Sierra town of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Photo: California National Guard via AP
This March 2, 2017 photo provided by the California National Guard shows a Guard dump truck helping to clear huge snow drifts from the Eastern Sierra town of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Photo: California National Guard via AP

The biggest blizzards are over. But as state water officials head into the Sierra Nevada on Thursday for the annual April 1 snowpack reading — the most important of the year for planning summer water supplies — California still has a huge amount of snow covering its highest mountain peaks, an avalanche that has buried the state’s punishing drought.

On Tuesday, the statewide Sierra snowpack stood at 164 percent of its historic average, a massive accumulation of new water. It’s the largest snowpack since 2011, when it was 171 percent of normal on April 1.

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“It’s been a crazy year,” said Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association.

Those storms tapered off, and warmer conditions have brought less snow in March. Even so, more snow is forecast for Thursday, and the size of this winter’s snow surplus has been exceeded only three times since 1970 — in 2011, 1995 and 1983.

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Overall, the state’s 46 largest reservoirs are 111 percent of their historic average. Every major city in California has seen large amounts of rainfall this winter, with San Francisco and Oakland at 144 percent of the historic average for the end of March, San Jose at 123 percent, Sacramento at 189, Fresno at 143 and Los Angeles at 141.

Additionally, 92 percent of California is no longer in drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly report by the NOAA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Nebraska.