CA snowpack one of the largest ever, bringing drought relief and flooding concerns, DWR says

The snow survey in the Sierra places California into potential record-breaking territory.

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Tuesday, April 4, 2023
CA snowpack one of the largest ever, brings flooding concerns: DWR
Officials with the California Department of Water Resources conducted its fourth snow survey of the season at Philips Station in the Sierra Nevada.

SODA SPRINGS, Calif. -- The snow survey in the Sierra places California into potential record-breaking territory.

The April survey historically marks peak snowpack- at Phillips station in the Central Sierra officials measured over 126" of snow- 54 inches of water content- which translated into 221% of average.

Statewide readings tallied up to 237% of average that puts us in a tie with the winter of 1952 for the highest snowpack ever.

For the moment, it's a tie. But more data is still rolling in.

Officials said there have been two other years where April's snowpack has been greater than 200% of average: 1952, 1969, and 1983.

The California Department of Water Resources measures the April water content in the snowpack as it is a key indicator for future water supply.

MORE: Has CA hit the all-time state snow record? Here's where we stand

Has California hit the all-time state snow record? Here's where we stand according to the most recent snow survey at Phillips Station.

Now, the focus is shifting from how much snow is falling in California to how fast the snowpack melts.

While the record snowpack means record-breaking snowmelt for spring, officials said it does bring flooding concerns.

"We're currently forecasting record breaking spring snowmelt in the Tulare Lake region upwards to an absurbly high 422% of average of snowmelt runoff for the Kern River watershed," said Sean de Guzman, the water supply forecasting manager for the California Department of Water Resources.

"We're very fortunate to be sitting with 100% of average in our major reservoirs across the state," California Department of Water Resources manager Karma Nemeth said.

VIDEO: CA officials release April snowpack survey results

Statewide, it recorded 237% of the April 1 average.

To avoid a catastrophic "big melt," what is needed is a mild spring with no extreme heat according to state climatologists-- a gradual snowmelt would prevent dangerous flooding, especially in the central valley.

Ski enthusiasts of all ages are taking full advantage of the snowpack .

"Access to snow was the big barrier this year and now that the roads are open, everyone's going to go. That's how I expect it this whole spring break season, as you can see here, I am going to expect a lot of people to come in and do some spring skiing," said Roger Meneses, Sports Basement Ski Manager

"This year's severe storms and flooding is the latest example that California's climate is becoming more extreme," said DWR Director Karla Nemeth, in a press release. "After the driest three years on record and devastating drought impacts to communities across the state, DWR has rapidly shifted to flood response and forecasting for the upcoming snowmelt. We have provided flood assistance to many communities who just a few months ago were facing severe drought impacts."

The DWR's State-Federal Flood Operations Center and DWR's Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit says they are helping local agencies plan for the spring snowmelt season.

Governor Gavin Newsom has previously requested a presidential emergency declaration for relief efforts.

Lines were long at the Walnut Creek rental store as the ski business booms and people appreciate this miracle of a winter.

"I was telling my kids today how wonderful to see these green hills . Just let this keep coming," said Skier Victoria Hall.

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