Wet fall, winter wallop, good for snowpack

RENO (AP) -Snowpack along the eastern slopes of the Sierra is at twice the normal levels for this time of year, thanks to a wet fall and a stormy start to winter that walloped the region with heavy snow.

Federal scientists on Tuesday sank measuring tubes into the snowpack near Mount Rose Summit southwest of Reno. The snow was nearly 8 feet deep, with a water content, or snowpack, of about 150 percent of average for Jan. 4, a Reno newspaper reported.

The numbers are better elsewhere along the Sierra, generally 200 percent of average or more. The Lake Tahoe Basin's snowpack was 220 percent of average, matching a previous January record set in the early 1980s, said Dan Greenlee, a snow surveyor with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In eastern Nevada, the snowpack measured 248 percent of average, smashing previous records, Greenlee said.

"This is just absolutely a banner year right now," said Greenlee, who has been measuring the Sierra snowpack for 18 years. "This is the biggest year for Jan. 1 since I started doing this. This is a fantastic start."

The situation was aided, Greenlee said, by soaking October rains that saturated soils, helping build the snowpack during November and December, which brought heavy early season snowstorms to the mountains.

October was the wettest on record in Reno and also brought the highest rise of Lake Tahoe for that month, said Chad Blanchard, chief deputy water master.

The lake has continued to rise and on Tuesday was approaching its maximum level reached early last summer after peak runoff from melting snow.

"We are only an inch lower than the peak last year in July. That's a huge turnaround," Blanchard said. "No matter what happens now we are going to be much better off than last year.

"We're just hoping it keeps going."


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