Storm dents Tahoe snowpack, but it’s still below normal
MOUNT ROSE, Nev. — North Shore ski resorts were the storm lottery winners on Monday, but the Lake Tahoe snowpack remains well below normal.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows received a foot of snow and Homewood Mountain Resort and Sugar Bowl each received about 8 inches while south and east of the lake the storm dropped a couple of inches. Sierra-at-Tahoe and Diamond Peak Ski Resort each received 1 inch of snow.
Officials who measured the Tahoe snowpack at 71-78% of median on Monday were hoping that the storm would add 10% to the snowpack, and it might have on the North Shore, but not across the lake.
The snow was 36 inches deep at the Mount Rose SNOTEL station as of midnight Monday morning and had 9.2 inches of water content, which is just 63% of median. That measurement is slightly deeper on Tuesday morning after Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe received about 6-8 inches of snow.
Seventeen SNOTEL stations are used to gauge the snowpack and water content.
The total precipitation since Oct. 1, 2019, is a half a water year behind average in the Truckee and Tahoe basins, said Natural Resources Conservation Hydrologist Jeff Anderson, who measured the snowpack using sensors. Normally Anderson would host media outlets and manually measure the snowpack, but bypassed being on scene due to the inclement weather.
Last year, officials said the water year (Oct. 1, 2019-Sept. 30, 2020) was 15.7 inches below average and on top of that, the region is already 7.2 inches below average for 2021 due to an historic dry fall where almost nothing fell from the sky. That’s a 22.9 inch deficit. A standard water year receives 44.1 inches.
Officials said fall rains usually soak the ground before the snow flies, but the lack of ground soaking before the snow may hamper spring runoff.
“The runoff will need to fill the soil profile which could lead to less runoff,” officials said.
All reservoir storage amounts are way down from last year. Lake Tahoe is at 43% capacity compared to 74% at the same time a year ago and the Truckee Basin reservoirs, Donner, Independence, Stampede, Boca and Prosser, are basically in the same shape. The Lahontan Reservoir in the Carson Basin is at 23% capacity compared to 51% last year.
The U.S Drought Monitor shows 91% of Nevada is in severe drought status.
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