Calif. Snowpack Tops 185 Percent of Average in March

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Following a rapid weather pattern shift that pummeled drought-ridden California with rain and snow over the last two months, regulators said Wednesday the state’s most important watershed now has a snowpack that’s 179 percent of average.

The California Department of Water Resources’ third snow survey of the year measured 113 inches of snow, or 43.4 inches of snow water content at the Phillips Sierra Nevada site. According to state records, the snowpack measurement is the highest taken since 1983 at the meadow located approximately 90 miles east of Sacramento.

February’s survey found 28.1 inches of snow water content, while January’s saw just 6 inches.

Officials said California’s snowpack is the healthiest it’s been in decades thanks to a “historic” winter season in several Sierra regions.

“It’s not the record, the record being 56.4 inches, but still a pretty phenomenal snowpack,” Frank Gehrke, who conducted the survey, said in a statement. “January and February came in with some really quite phenomenal atmospheric river storms, many of which were cold enough to really boost the snowpack.”

The monthly snowpack surveys give regulators an idea of how much water will be available to deliver in the summer to Central Valley farmers and Southern California cities. The April survey is generally the most useful snapshot as the Sierra snowpack, which holds approximately 30 percent of the state’s water supply, is at its deepest.

Gehrke said many of the central and southern Sierra Nevada measurement stations have already “busted through April 1 values.” The statewide snowpack is at 185 percent of its March average.

After several years of drought, much of California was hammered by atmospheric river storms in January and February.

Parts of San Diego County received record rainfall on Monday from a storm that caused regional flooding and widespread power outages. The storm inundated San Diego International Airport with 1.74 inches, pushing the city’s seasonal rainfall total past its yearly average.

Precipitation records have also been shattered 500 miles up the coast in Sacramento. The capital city received a combined 17.89 inches during January and February, a two-month record.

Forecasters are predicting a minor storm will reach Northern California this weekend, while the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center’s prediction model gives California an equal chance at above or below normal precipitation over the next three months.


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