January storms bring snowpack to highest level in 30 years
Left to right, Thomas Gibson, Anthony Burdock, Jacob Kollen, and Sean de Guzman, right, Department of Water Resources. Courtesy Kenneth James / California Department of Water Resources

January storms bring snowpack to highest level in 30 years

Things are really looking up for parched Californians. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted the second manual snow survey of the season yesterday and found a recorded snow depth of 85.5 inches. That is an increase of 30 inches over the first survey conducted in January.

Statewide, DWR’s electronic readings show the state’s frozen reservoir has a snow water equivalent of 33.7 inches, or 205 percent of average for this date.

“Large snow totals like today are a welcome sight but also present new challenges for water managers as they walk the fine line between water supply and flood control,” said DWR’s Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit Manager Sean de Guzman. “As we move into the snowmelt season in the spring, water managers will work to manage flood risk and optimize the snowpack’s water supply benefits during peak demands in the summer.”

While this season is currently outpacing the record 1982-83 season after nine atmospheric rivers battered the state for more than three weeks, DWR says that more periodic rain and snow over the next several months will be key to get the biggest water supply benefit from the state’s snowpack without posing additional flood risks.

“While today’s results are good news for water supplies, we know from experience how quickly snowpack can disappear if dry conditions return in the months ahead,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth.

DWR is also conducting Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) survey flights to collect more information on the snowpack accumulated by recent storms. Data from these flights will be used to get an accurate account of California’s snowpack and its water content.

DWR conducts five media-oriented snow surveys at Phillips Station each winter near the first of each month, January through April and, if necessary, May. The next survey is tentatively scheduled for March 1.

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