Snow survey brings good news to California, but drought still lingers

California

PHILLIPS, Calif. (KTXL) — The first snow survey of the season brought hopeful news for California’s water supply.

The Department of Water Resources says the state’s snowpack is way above average for this time of year.

“We are off to a great start,” said Sean De Guzman, with DWR.

The Department of Water Resources measures snowpack water content at more than 260 stations across the Sierra multiple times every year. The data helps officials forecast the amount of water that will melt and run off to state reservoirs to help the state’s water needs, information that is critical for the coming dry months.

The recent winter snowstorms have been shattering records, with the University of California, Berkeley’s Central Sierra Snow Lab reporting 122 inches of snow in the last seven days and 210 inches since the start of December from their Donner Pass location.

De Guzman and his team measured the snowpack Thursday afternoon in Phillips, a small community nestled off Highway 50 that sits at 6,800 feet.

The measurements found the snowpack in that area of the Sierra stand at 202% of average for this time of year.

California’s average is lower than that but still high at 160% of average for this part of the year.

There was so much snow at Phillips Station that the state officials in charge of the snow survey had to walk in with snowshoes on. While that’s not necessarily unusual, they said all of the snow brings hope for the state’s drought. 

“Our precipitation statewide is looking well above average,” De Guzman explained. “We’ve had one of the best, one of the snowiest Decembers on record.”

Even with that good news, the state is still below where it needs to be by April 1, at 81% of that date’s average.

Survey leaders said it’s a reminder that California is still in a drought.

“Definitely not out of the woods quite yet,” De Guzman said. “Most of our reservoirs are still below average. I want to say there are just a couple of reservoirs that are above average at this point.”

De Guzman and his team will closely watch and hope for more snow in the months ahead.

“Let’s just keep it coming,” he said.

Incoming dry weather this weekend means snowmelt in the foothills will add water to rivers on top of the recent rain, which could result in flooding on roads with poor drainage.

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