There was no March Miracle: California’s dry winter continues, Sierra snow survey shows

Tribune Content Agency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — So much for the March Miracle.

Despite a few March storms, the Sierra Nevada snowpack remains well below average, California officials reported Wednesday, suggesting that water supplies will be tight this summer and fall.

The Department of Water Resources said its monthly manual survey of a broad field near Echo Summit showed the snowpack was about one third less than normal for this time of year.

The survey, conducted behind the site of a former stagecoach stop off Highway 50, showed 43.5 inches of snow and a “snow water equivalent” of 16.5 inches. That was 66% of the average for the start of April.

The survey, traditionally a closely watched barometer of California’s “water year,” was conducted without any media members present because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The results from the site at Phillips, near the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort, were roughly in line with electronic sensors measuring the snowpack elsewhere. Those sensors show the snowpack’s snow water equivalent at 15.2 inches, or 53% of normal.

Officials had hoped for a March Miracle after a nearly rain-free February in most parts of the state. The weather disappointed them.

“While today’s survey results show our snowpack is better off than it was just last month, they still underscore the need for widespread, wide use of our water supplies,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the water agency, in a prepared statement.

The measurements represent the latest evidence of California’s dry winter. The U.S. Drought Monitor, produced by several federal agencies, last week showed 40% of the state was facing droughtlike conditions and another 35% was considered abnormally dry.

The snowpack is a critical factor in California’s water supply, as melting snow helps get the state through the bone-dry summer and fall. However, officials said California’s reservoirs were in good shape heading into this winter, which will blunt some of the impacts of what’s become a dry winter.


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