Lake Tahoe snowpack doubles in March — and more on the way |

Lake Tahoe snowpack doubles in March — and more on the way

Claire Cudahy
The snowpack in the Tahoe Basin more than doubled thanks to a series of storms during March.
Claire Cudahy / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

As the Tahoe Basin prepares for another winter storm, this month appears to have the makings of a “Miracle March.”

On March 1, snowpack in the Tahoe Basin was around 28 percent of the median water content, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

After weathering several storms — including one last week that brought more than 4 feet of snow in 48 hours to some Lake Tahoe ski resorts — the percentage has jumped to 63 percent of the median as of March 20.

“It’s more than doubled,” said Jeff Anderson, NRCS hydrologist. “We’ve seen a great recovery, not quite up to the 1991 standards of a Miracle March, but certainly headed in that direction, and with another big storm coming we could reach that level.”

The term “Miracle March” was coined in 1991 during what was on course to be the driest winter on record following a seven-year drought.

According to Tribune archives, ski resorts were preparing to pack up shop when a series of snowstorm starting on March 1, 1991 delivered 50 inches of snow, and it kept coming for the rest of the month.

Snowpack went from 17 percent of normal on March 1 up to 79 percent on April 1.

“Before we started getting those smaller storms toward the end of February our snow levels were very similar to ‘91 in the Tahoe Basin,” explained Anderson. “We’re going from basically some of the lowest on record for those dates, so it’s been a great March and there is more to come. Hopefully it comes as snow not rain.”

As of Tuesday, the lake level was at 6,228.26 feet, 5.26 feet over its natural rim and 0.84 feet from the maximum legal limit.

A winter storm watch is in effect for the greater Lake Tahoe area from Wednesday afternoon through late Thursday night above 7,000 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Total accumulation of 2 – 3 feet is anticipated mainly above 7,500 feet, with possible localized amounts of 4 feet near the crest. Six to 12 inches may fall down to 7,000 feet.

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