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article imageSurvey of California snowpack shows its the biggest in 22 years

By Karen Graham     Feb 2, 2017 in Environment
Sacramento - An atmospheric river of huge storms roared into California in January, reducing the state's water deficit by more than a third. And the snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas is the biggest in 22 years.
The Mercury-News is saying the last time the Sierras saw this much snow was in 1995, back when Pete Wilson was governor and "Steve Young had just led the 49ers to a blowout win in Super Bowl XXIX.
State water managers say the snow drifts in the Sierra Nevadas are at 173 percent of average this month and we still have February and March storms, which are usually pretty good at adding to the snowpack. The snow survey measured 90 inches of snow and 28.1 inches of “snow water content” at Phillips Station off Highway 50, one of several critical monitoring stations.
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Frank Gehrke, the veteran Department of Water Resources official who runs the snow survey told the Sacramento Bee that the survey results from the Phillips station very well reflect that January was “pretty much a banner month in terms of the snowpack.”
He added that the levels at Phillips also were more typical of normal April levels when the snowpack is usually at its peak, and the same levels were found at other monitoring stations in the Sierras, based on data from electronic sensors maintained by the Department of Water Resources.
Thursday's snow survey happened at the same time that the National Drought Monitor released its latest maps and data on the California drought through January 31, 2017. The latest report shows that 49.2 percent of California is now drought-free, up from 48.6 percent last week.
U.S. Drought Monitor
Folks need to be reminded though that California is still under Governor Jerry Brown's emergency drought declaration from January 2014. Everyone will need to wait until April when the governor may either amend or rescind the order. Tony Fuentes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno, says that after five years of drought and very little snowpack, people were excited because the water was really needed.
But Fuentes says that "after a point, people started to get a little tired of it and wanted a break. It’s kind of a mixed bag. There can be too much of a good thing.”
More about California, snowpack survey, drought conditions, atmospheric river, water deficit
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