The first measurable, widespread snow is expected in California’s Sierra Nevada Wednesday into Thursday, with a cold storm from the Gulf of Alaska poised to sweep the Golden State, according to the National Weather Service. There’s another chance for snow later in the week as well.
A few months ago drought had so choked the Colorado River – San Diego’s main water resource – that the federal government was ready to enforce significant major water restrictions on the seven states that drink from it.
But it has snowed and rained so much since January, tempers have cooled as the drought has been more or less quenched, at least for now.
California water officials reported on Monday that preliminary data showed the water contained in the state’s April snowpack is near historic levels.
Officials previewed the results after a morning measurement south of Lake Tahoe, where the snowpack exceeded 10.5 feet deep at one of California’s 260 snow measurement locations.
The winter of 2022-23 will go into the meteorological record books for one of the heaviest – if not, the heaviest – precipitation ever experienced in California.
California has been buffeted for more than two months by a seemingly nonstop series of storms rolling in from the Pacific, soaking virtually every corner of the state. Their most unusual aspect has been the huge snowfall in Southern California mountains, where hundreds of people remain trapped in resort communities.
For decades, Californians have depended on the reliable appearance of spring and summer snowmelt to provide nearly a third of the state’s supply of water. But as the state gets drier, and as wildfires climb to ever-higher elevations, that precious snow is melting faster and earlier than in years past — even in the middle of winter.
The first week of February brought only modest amounts of rain and snow but despite that, California’s snowpack and many of the state’s largest reservoirs are in good shape.
According to data tracked by California’s Department of Water Resources, the statewide snowpack is at 135% of the average peak. Typically the snowpack peaks in late March to early April.
The recent storm that brought wet weather to the Bay Area last week dumped an “impressive” amount of snow on the Sierra Nevada for the month of April, said the National Weather Service.
The storm dumped 31.1 inches of snow, increasing April’s snowfall total to 76 inches — “almost double what we received January through March,” the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab tweeted Friday.
Last Friday’s report that California’s snowpack is just 38% of normal underscores the importance for Tulare County to not only take the drought more seriously, but to brace for drier winters to become the rule rather than the exception.
Two Tulare County irrigation water agencies aren’t waiting around to see how the state will cope with the current and future drought and are taking steps to secure more water storage in the Kaweah Subbasin. Tulare Irrigation District (TID) and Consolidated Peoples Ditch Company (CPDC) purchased 260 acres in December 2020 near McKay Point, where the Kaweah River forks into the Lower Kaweah and St. John’s rivers near Lemon Cove, to build a reservoir capable of storing 8,000 acre feet of water.
California’s winter snowpack is suffering after the state saw historically dry weather in January and February, and March is headed down the same track. An early spring heat wave this week brought record-breaking temperatures that accelerated snowmelt. On Friday, the snowpack — which historically has provided about a third of the state’s water supply — stood at 46% of its average for this time of year.