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Despite stormy March, snowpack still below average

Sean de Guzman (Right), chief of California Department of Water Resources, Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, conducts the third media snow survey of the 2020 season at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Nate Burely (Center), with DWR’s Water Resources Engineer, Reservoir Coordinated Operations Section, and Molly White (Left), DWR’s Chief of State Water Project Water Operations Office, assist with the survey, which was held approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Photo taken February 27, 2020.
California Department of Water Resources | California Department of Water R

LAKE TAHOE — Despite storms in March, the snowpack is below average but things aren’t dire.

At the Mt. Rose SNOTEL site Thursday, Natural Resources Conservation Service hydrologist Jeff Anderson saw a 22% increase in the Sierra Nevada snowpack.

“The gains we did get in March were pretty significant,” Anderson said.

Still, the snowpack is 72% of the median for the Tahoe Basin.

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“We would need to see as much snow in April as we did in March [to get to average] but its pretty unlikely,” Anderson said.

Despite below average numbers, because of the big storms last year, the basin doesn’t need to worry about drought quite yet.

“The fact that Lake Tahoe filled last year ensures a three-year supply,” Anderson said. “We won’t be far from full this year either.”

The California Department of Water Resources measured the snowpack Wednesday being 66% of average at Phillips Station, near Sierra-at-Tahoe.

“While today’s survey results show our snowpack is better off than it was just last month, they still underscore the need for widespread, wise use of our water supplies,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in a press release. “California’s climate continues to show extreme unpredictability, and February’s record dryness is a clear example of the extremes associated with climate change.”

In one year, California has gone from having the fifth best recorded snowpack to one of the 10 worst.

“Over the last decade, California’s snowpack has been alternating between extremely wet and extremely dry,” stated Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecast Section. “In the past 10 years, we’ve seen three of our smallest snowpacks on record, but we’ve also seen three of our largest snowpacks on record.”

There are a few storms on the horizon for April that will help a bit.


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