Drought lifted following latest snow survey | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Drought lifted following latest snow survey

Adam Jensen
Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneFrank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Survey program, measures the snowpack at Phillips Station Wednesday morning.

It’s no surprise to anyone who spent hours shoveling snow from their driveway this winter, but California’s drought will not last into a fourth year.

On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown officially rescinded emergency drought declarations issued by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger since 2008.

The move followed the release of California Cooperative Snow Survey results showing the water content of the Sierra Nevada snowpack rests at 165 percent of the long-term average for April 1.

Surveyors measured 124.2 inches of snow, containing the equivalent of 43.5 inches of water, at Phillips Station, near the entrance to Sierra-at-Tahoe, Wednesday. The water content is 154 percent of the long-term average for the site at this time of year.

And data from the Natural Resource Conservation Service shows the Lake Tahoe Basin faring even better than the west slope of the Sierra Nevada.

Freel Bench, at the Corral Loop trail head, has a snow depth of 63 inches with a water equivalent of 23.8 inches. This measurement is 222 percent of the long-term average for the site and approximately 94 percent of the snow received during the 1982-83 El Nino winter.

The deepest snow recorded at the site came in 1938, when surveyors found 70 inches. Conservation district staff expect snow measurements at Lake Lucille later this week to exceed 18.5 feet.

More than 61 feet of snow has fallen on the 400-mile-long Sierra Nevada mountain range this season, second only to the 1950-51 season when a total of 65 feet fell, according to records kept by the California Department of Transportation.

Several Sierra Nevada ski resorts have reported breaking snowfall records this season, but the amount of water in the snowpack has a precedent, said Frank Gehrke, chief of the cooperative snow survey program.

“It’s by no means record-breaking,” Gehrke said, comparing this season’s snowpack to 1995, which saw a mid-season lull similar to the six dry weeks experienced this year in January and the start of February.

Still, the above average snowpack is expected to ease water restrictions statewide.

“Recent storms have significantly contributed to the above-average snowpack, helping to stabilize California’s water supply for the year,” said California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin, in a statement. “While this is beneficial for California’s farms, businesses and communities, we remind residents to practice sensible water use and conservation as we transition to warmer weather.”

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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