After all that moisture … Snowpack average, survey says |

After all that moisture … Snowpack average, survey says

Sonya Sorich, Placerville Mountain Democrat
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Michael Lovett, 5, from Portland, builds a snow castle at Camp Richardson Beach Wednesday.

PHILLIPS STATION – Before taking any measurements, officials from the California Department of Water Resources knew recent storms would play into the results of Wednesday’s snow survey.

“It’s a lot better than it would have been two weeks ago,” Frank Gehrke, the department’s chief of snow surveys, said before examining the snowpack.

Dave Hart, an engineer with the department, said things looked “way below normal until this month.”

A series of measurements later, Gehrke and Hart pointed to a snowpack at Phillips Station, near Sierra-at-Tahoe resort, that is 92 percent of average. They said that number marks a “middle of the road year” with an average that is just barely higher than last year’s estimate.

“If average makes you feel good, you should be feeling good,” Hart said. “It looks average and it feels average.”

The Central Sierra region, which sits at a higher elevation, is doing much better, Gehrke said. Wednesday morning’s survey was the first in a string of monthly measurements held at a variety of locations. The five surveys are designed to help determine spring runoff into reservoirs. Gehrke and Hart stressed the way the weekend’s weather impacted their findings.

“Certainly two weeks ago it was bare,” Gehrke said, referring to his surroundings. “We did make up quite a bit of ground in terms of the snowpack’s water content.”

Since it was merely the first in a series of measurements, the January snow survey isn’t necessarily indicative of future trends. It’s difficult to predict what will happen during the remainder of the season, Gehrke and Hart said.

They know, however, what they’d like to see between now and the February measurement cycle.

“Obviously we’re hoping for some cool storms, especially (in the) Northern Sierra,” Gehrke said. Snow water is key in determining the year’s water supply, DWR officials say.

Data from the measurements assist hydrologists in forecasting water supply, and also aid hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry.

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