Snowpack improves in March, but still inadequate
Listen to the story
Monday's storm dumped about 20 inches of snow in the higher elevations of the Tahoe area. While this and the other recent storms have not made for a "Miracle March," they have brought the snowpack up to a level that’s at least closer to the last couple years.
The recent storms added about 5 percent or so to the snowpack across the Tahoe, Carson and Walker Basins. This number isn't particularly impressive, but the situation does look much better than it did in February. Across the area, it’s now almost 60 percent of normal in some place, but on average it’s about 45 percent.
Beau Euriona is with the National Resources Conservation Service. He’s the one who goes out and measures the pack at Mount Rose and other sites.
“The storms that we have been getting have basically kept pace with the accumulation that we need for normal years. The problem is that we started out so low that we haven't been able to make any gains.”
Euriona says snow has accumulated in the high areas, but the warm March storms left very little actual snow in the mid to lower elevations.
“Higher areas only make up a very small portion of the overall acreage of this water producing area. You need that lower and mid elevations.”
Without the actual snow on the ground, the runoff, especially in the late summer, could be minimal. Because they expect such little of it, they’ve been able to tell reservoirs operators that they don’t need to save much room for flooding. That means they can hold onto more of the water they get now.
Generally, the end of March is when the snowpack is at its peak. Barring some intense April storms, from here on out it will likely go down.