The Mineral King Road reaches the highest elevation (just under 8,000 feet) of any highway or byway in the area. So with gate-lock combinations in hand, a Sunday drive was undertaken on February 4 to explore winter in the Sierra, or lack thereof.
The midday temperature at road’s end was almost 70 degrees F. In the shadiest places, snow depth was three inches at most.
Is California re-entering a drought cycle? February and March have the potential for being wet months, but since temperatures this time of year trend upward, each day it is becoming more unlikely that there will be a sustained snowpack except, perhaps, on the highest peaks.
Sierra snowpack is important to California because when the snow melts, the water runs off and refills the state’s reservoirs. The snowpack provides about one-third of the state’s overall water supply. Because of last winter’s record-setting rains, California’s reservoirs are still relatively full.
“There’s still a lot of winter left,” said Frank Gehrke, California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program chief snow surveyor. “Anything can happen.”
As of February 1 in the Southern Sierra, the snow pack is 13 percent of the April 1 average and 21 percent of normal for this time of year. In contrast, last year as of February 1, the snow pack was 127 percent of the April 1 average and 198 percent of normal for this time of year.