Snowpack above normal in Sierra

first_img160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SACRAMENTO – A series of January storms has kept the vital Sierra Nevada snowpack about 20 percent above normal for this time of year, according to a new snow survey conducted Wednesday. The storms have been gentle compared to the heavy rains that flooded rivers and streams over the New Year’s weekend, but they still are piling up snow, to the delight of skiers and ski resort operators. The storms have rolled in every few days to powder the mountains after a warm December in which much of the precipitation fell as rain. “We had pretty close to a normal accumulation for January,” Snow Survey Chief Frank Gehrke said by phone from Phillips Station along Highway 50 south of Lake Tahoe. About nine new inches accumulated at the snow survey site there in the last month, bringing the snow depth to 56 inches. “We talked to a property owner up here and he was saying it’s been kind of a yucky January – just kind of gray. No big dumps, but every couple of days they get precipitation,” Gehrke said. As he spoke, a mixture of freezing rain and snow fell and temperatures hovered around freezing. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card More than 50 agencies and utilities collect the snow depth readings from 382 remote sensors and human surveyors, and the state Department of Water Resources tabulates them. Statewide, the second snow survey of the season found the snowpack at 121 percent of normal. That’s down from the 145 percent above average that was recorded just after the heavy New Year’s storms. The northern Sierra snowpack is 111 percent of normal for this time of year; the central part of the range is 121 percent of normal; and the southern Sierra has 133 percent of the typical year’s snowpack. A healthy snow accumulation is important to farmers and water managers as well as skiers. The state gets more than a third of its drinking and irrigation water from Sierra snow, which functions as a giant, frozen reservoir along the 400-mile range. Hydroelectric plants rely on the snow melt to produce about a quarter of the state’s power. This year’s accumulation lags last year, when more than 12 feet of snow fell over two weeks in early January, the most in nearly a century. With the bulk of winter storms likely still ahead, the snowpack statewide was at 73 percent of the total that would typically fall by April 1. last_img read more