Drought worries doused by an astounding April | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Drought worries doused by an astounding April

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

This April was one for the weather books.

The depth of the snowpack along Highway 50 near Sierra-at-Tahoe jumped 11 inches, the impact of the snowiest April in at least 20 years, said Dave Hart, of the California Department of Water Resources.

Reservoirs in California will get a “double bump” once the spring storm pattern breaks and the sun begins to melt the snowpack for a second time. The first bump came at the end of March when temperatures in the 60s shrank the snowpack.

“It certainly was a very respectable April,” said Frank Gehrke, snow survey chief for the Department of Water Resources. “We’re engineers so we don’t get excited.”

The snow survey last month found the snowpack 56 percent below average. April’s snows increased the pack to just 2 percent below average. Numbers specific to the Lake Tahoe Basin are also impressive and soothed concerns that continued drought-like conditions would increase fire danger this summer and drop the level of Lake Tahoe.

“We don’t have to worry about drought … at least in the Eastern Sierra and the Tahoe Basin,” said Gary Barbato, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Reno. “They were thinking about the Truckee running out in September. Now the thinking is there will be plenty of water to get through the whole irrigation season.”

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The Truckee River, which runs east from Lake Tahoe, is fed by Lake Tahoe and reservoirs in the area. Records show the level of Tahoe rose 4 inches during April and it is expected to rise another 6 inches by early July, Barbato said. The end of June or early July is when the majority of the snowpack that drains into Tahoe has finished its melt and run to the lake.

The water content of the snowpack at Lake Tahoe Basin nearly doubled during April to 12 percent above average, according to snow sensor data collected by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The snowpack at Echo Peak, which sits at 7,800 feet and is near the edge of the basin, rose from 27 percent below average to 45 percent above average by the end of the month.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com