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California Snowpack Below Average Despite Storms

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PHILLIPS -- The first snowpack measurement of the year for the Department of Water Resources shows that the snowpack crucial for water storage later in the year was just 53 percent of average at the Phillips measuring location near Echo Summit off Highway 50.

Despite nearly waist-deep snow in spots, the water content was measured at just 6 inches. Still the results weren't entirely unexpected. The meadow where the measurement was taken was bare ground just a few days ago.

The snow was the result of a series of storms that came in over the past several days. More storms are forecast in the coming week.

"I could see us potentially at average once that series of storms moves through," said Frank Gehrke who heads the California Snow Survey.

The rest of California is averaging 70 percent of normal snow and the big storms in October, while not providing much snow, did bring state reservoirs to above normal levels with rain runoff.

The good news is that the heaviest precipitation months are January and February. Unlike past years, when high pressure fronts blocked storms from hitting Northern California, this year the storms have come at regular intervals.

"They haven't been huge, they haven't been super cold, but we keep getting these precipitation events and to me that's a very encouraging sign," Gehrke said.

He also said big snow storms could also come during March and April, and a heavy snow storm can replenish the snowpack in one week, even after a month of dry weather.