Survey: Snowpack still far below normal |

Survey: Snowpack still far below normal

Griffin Rogers

California Department of Water Resources snow surveyor Frank Gehrke, in the red jacket, measures the snowpack near Highway 50 and Sierra-At-Tahoe Road on Tuesday.

The results of a Tuesday snow survey showed snowpack levels are still far below normal, despite the arrival of more than 2 feet of new snow in some South Shore areas.

The survey, conducted by the California Department of Water Resources near U.S. Highway 50 and Sierra-At-Tahoe Road, was the final snow analysis of the season in the area. It showed 33.7 inches of snow depth and 8.1 inches of water content, which was 29 percent of the long-term average.

"This snow course was basically bare two days ago," Surveyor Frank Gehrke said at the survey site Tuesday. "All of the snow that we measured just now came mostly last night, and it really illustrates the difference between a good-water year and a bad-water year."

In a good-water year, the region should receive eight to 10 storms like the ones South Shore has been getting over the past few days, he said. But this year, the area has only experienced two or three storms.

"And that makes all the difference between good snow accumulation and marginal accumulation," he said.

The amount of water content found during the survey, along with its long-term average, is among the lowest DWR has recorded in the area since 1940 or so, Gehrke said.

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The recent South Shore snowfall helps. But in terms of what's going to happen this summer with runoff, he said it's "really of relatively minor importance."

It also doesn't look as if things will be improving by summer, as the snow season usually ends shortly after April 1. This doesn't bode well for California's reservoirs, which are below average.

"Basically, we are finished with any realistic chances of further snow accumulation," Gehrke said. "So we're obviously not looking all that promising for our spring and summer, certainly in terms of recovering on the reservoir storage."

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