After years of extreme drought and dismal snowfall, California has had a remarkably wet winter and is now heading into record snowfall territory.
As of Friday, snowpack in the southern Sierra was at 286% of normal, the highest number ever, easily eclipsing the region’s benchmark of 263% set in 1969.
in a tweetthe UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Laboratory said this year recently surpassed 1982-83 as the second snowiest on record since measurements began in 1946.
“We’ll be getting closer over the next week” to the top of the list, the lab said.
In the central Sierra, snow cover was 230% of normal, above the 1983 record level. In the Northern Sierra, the figure was 182%, below the 1983 level.
Throughout the state, snowpack hovers near the record level: 228% of normal for this date. The level during the annual snow survey for April 1, 1983 was 227%.
The April 1, 1952 survey, with levels 237% of average, still takes the cake, though the process included fewer survey measurements, making comparison with current numbers difficult, said Sean DeGuzman of the Department of California Water Resources.
That means statewide, snow cover measurements are currently “higher than any reading since the snow sensor network was established in the mid-1980s.”
Despite the comparison issues, “this year will certainly rank among the three or four snowiest years since the 1950s,” DeGuzman said.
And more snow is likely on the way. The Sacramento office of the National Weather Service said on Twitter that “heavy snowfall is expected Monday afternoon – Wednesday, the heaviest Tuesday.”
With flooding already a problem in much of the state, record snowmelt is now a real concern.
“There is more water in the Sierra than these facilities can handle,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said of the state’s reservoirs. The agency will take steps to “minimize and mitigate flood damage” during what is expected to be “very long duration snow melt.”
Reflecting on a wild winter in California, he said the state is “unique in the western US.” in its ability to “go from very, very wet to very, very dry and back to very, very wet.”