Monday marked the all-important measurement of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, and it was, as predicted, one of the deepest snowpacks recorded since records began being kept in 1941.
The April survey of the snowpack, occurring when the accumulated snow is typically at its peak and before any melting has begun, is considered the most important measurement of the snow season, with impacts on waterways and reservoirs for months to come.
Sean de Guzman, water supply forecasting unit manager for the California Department of Water Resources, tells the Associated Press that today's measurement was 126.5 inches of snow depth, or 237% of average. More measurements by other agencies are still to come, and there is still the possibility for more late-season snow, so de Guzman tells the AP "as of right now it’s looking like this year’s statewide snowpack will probably, most likely be, either the first or second biggest snowpack on record."
The depth measurement was taken at Phillips Station off Highway 50, and SFGate notes that it is the third highest snow depth since these surveys began in 1941.
1952 was another record-setting winter, and that was the last time the state hit 237% of average snowpack. But the measurements may not be apples-to-apples, as officials explain.
As de Guzman said in a statement Monday, "While 1952’s snow course measurements showed a similar result, there were fewer snow courses at that time, making it difficult to compare to today’s results. Because additional snow courses were added over the years, it is difficult to compare results accurately across the decades with precision, but this year’s snowpack is definitely one of the biggest the state has seen since the 1950s."
Reservoir storage across California is now 107% of average, and the result of all this snow will mean months of snowmelt that will bring those reservoir levels even higher.
We already have seen the reemergence, in recent weeks, of the massive inland body of water once called Tulare Lake, and more areas of the Central Valley are likely to flood as this snow melts.
"The real challenge as we move into spring and summer though is flooding — significant flooding — particularly in the Tulare Lake Basin,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the Department of Water Resources, speaking to the AP.
And de Guzman noted to the AP that the Kern River watershed, which drains into the Central Valley, is expected to hit "an absurdly high 422% of average."
The next snowpack measurement at Phillips Station is tentatively scheduled for May 1st.
Previously: Sierra Snowpack on Pace to Break 40-Year Record
Photo: Daniel Akre