Remember the days when Rocky Mountain ski resort owners looked with envy upon Sierra Nevada operators who had to deal with storm after storm that dumped so much snow it was measured in feet not inches? Thanks to record-setting storms in January that arrived with atmospheric rivers, those snowy days are here again.
The February 1 snow survey average up and down the Sierra Nevada is 177 percent of historic average for that date.
The Governor’s office is encouraged by the latest snow stats but not ready to rescind the emergency drought measures until the April 1 numbers are in the books. But where the snow is needed most, in the Tahoe-Truckee region that provides more than one-third of California’s drinking water, there is 12 to 15 feet of snow piled up waiting for a spring thaw.
When that massive meltdown comes, it will fill every major reservoir in the state and even put some of the billions of gallons of water into parched aquifers that have been feeling the pinch of a five-year drought.
A spokesperson for Mammoth Mountain Ski Resorts says they will be skiing into July. The 177 percent is the biggest February 1 pack since 1995 when snow surveys tallied 207 percent of the norm.
As recently as three years ago on February 1, the snowpack was a paltry nine percent of the historic average. The 2017 pack so far ranks as the seventh biggest since 1941 when the state started keeping snowpack records.
The 1969 statewide snowpack that did so much damage in Mineral King was 230 percent on February 1. In 1952, the snowpack was 267 percent.
The totals have varied somewhat in the Southern Sierra but are still impressive. Dave Fox, Mineral King’s district ranger, reported that the February 1 snowpack was 79 inches at Aspen Flat (8,000 feet). There are still a number of trees down on the upper, currently closed portion of the Mineral King Road so travel by snowshoes or skis remains arduous.
There is slightly less snow on the ground in Giant Forest but more rain and snow is expected this weekend as a new system comes onshore. Three more feet of snow is expected in the Sierra’s higher elevations and another system due at the beginning of the workweek.
Daily readings up and down the Sierra from 100 remote sensors are already indicating a water content of 108 percent of the April 1 average with two months still to go.
In Three Rivers, the January rainfall total started with 8.30 inches and ended with 20.59 inches (1,000 feet). The historic 30-year average for Kaweah Country is 20 inches.