Early March storms jump Sierra snowpack
Basin snowpacks - change in snow percent of median pre- and post-storm
- Lake Tahoe Basin increased 15% from 29% to 44%
- Truckee Basin increased 12% from 42% to 54%
- Carson Basin increased 16% from 40% to 56%
- Walked Basin increased 15% from 39% to 54%
Natural Resources Conservation Service decided to wait out the storm a few days so it could conduct its snow survey on Monday at the Mount Rose SNOTEL site.
Hydrologist Jeff Anderson with NRCS Snow Survey measured the snowpack by shoving a hollow metal pole through the snow and down to ground level, then measured the weight of the pole with the snow and then while empty.
He reported, “Our station today is right on with our ground truth. We’re seeing about 86 inches of snow depth, and that snow, if you melted it down, would have about 22.5 inches of water content in it, and that’s 67 percent median for this day; so almost 70 percent, which is up about 12 percent since before this storm started. We saw a nice increase from this storm.”
This is the biggest storm western Nevada has seen since November, but since that storm produced a lot of rain, this past storm yielded the highest snowpack. Tahoe Basin wide, there was a 12 percent bump in snowpack. The Carson Basin saw a 16 percent increase, from 40 percent to now 56 percent snow, which is the 10th lowest since 1981.
Our most eager question, is this looking like it’s going to be a March Miracle?
“Anytime you have a big storm that starts right on March 1, yeah you’re setting yourself up for the potential for a Miracle March… In order to get there we would need to two or maybe even three more storms like the one we just had. So it would have to be a real sustained stormy month. Hopefully the storms deliver and we’ll see a nice increase.”
This year is on a better trajectory than other winters, especially with this past storm, which was predicted to be one of the biggest storms of this season.
“If we can keep the storms coming, certainly we’ll see the biggest month that we’ve seen this year, and hopefully we’ll get back to that ‘Miracle March’ status that we saw in 1991, where the snowpack went from 20 percent to 80 percent in just one month.”
Chad Blanchard, Federal Water Master for the Carson-Truckee rivers, discussed the current river levels and the status of the region’s water supply.
“The flood control levels are as high as we can be at the reservoirs at this point. We were happy not only to have the precept, but to have it fall as snow because if it falls as rain and runs off right now we can’t capture it.”
At this point, it doesn’t look like they can store much more in the reservoirs until April 10. This is a great sign for water supply.
NRCS installs, operates and maintains an extensive, automated network of SNOTEL weather stations to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the Western United States. In addition to measuring the snowpack’s water content SNOTEL sites also measure annual precipitation, air temperature, snow depth and soil moisture.