California leaders prepare for potential impacts of melting snow

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Wednesday, April 12, 2023
California leaders prepare for potential impacts of melting snow
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As warmer weather moves in, rapid snowmelt is raising concerns about more water reaching already-filled waterways in the Valley.

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- As warmer weather moves in, rapid snowmelt is raising concerns about more water reaching already-filled waterways in the Valley.

This year, Central California's snowpack is 234% of its average.

All that snow will eventually melt, ending up in our local reservoirs, rivers, lakes, and as groundwater.

The California Department of Water Resources is already preparing for peak snowmelt, expected in May and June in the San Joaquin Region and Tulare Lake Basin.

Where that water ends up will depend on a combined effort by the DWR's State-Federal Flood Operations Center, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and local agencies.

Decisions will be made on how much water is maintained in our reservoirs to manage the runoff.

"When there's not enough space available in the reservoir to capture the snowpack, the space needs to be created," said Jenny Fromm, Chief, Water Management Section, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "By creating that space, we help mitigate potentially larger releases in the spring and summer."

Many factors and agencies are considered and consulted.

"Looking at the big picture of the complete operation of the San Joaquin, that is really the what the goal of that program is," said Fromm. "And you know, through that program, we are communicating both with each other, the reservoir operators, and also with the downstream folks."

State and local agencies will monitor water levels to identify areas of concern and work together on flood prevention.

"Yes, there's a lot of snow out there, but there is a coordinated, very active group working and looking at the situation and exercising as many options as possible to maximize benefit and mitigate the hazard," said Dr. Michael Anderson, State Climatologist, DWR.

While these agencies work on predictions and prevention, they're asking the public to pay attention to warnings from local agencies.

"Be aware of your flood risks," said Jeremy Arrich, Division of Flood Management, DWR. "Know where your house or your business sits within or around the potential for flooding. Be prepared by planning out evacuation routes, meeting locations with your family, and then take action if the emergency response local entities or evacuation and other evacuation orders, warnings heed those warnings."

April 1st is typically considered the peak of snowpack, but that could be added to if we get more storms. How quickly the weather warms up and the amount of sunshine will directly impact when we see the bulk of the snow melt.

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