PHILLIPS STATION -- The monthly survey of the Sierra snowpack confirmed what people could see with the naked eye -- snow levels are way above average.
In recent days, Sierra highways were closed by winter storms. Driving toward Echo Summit on Highway 50 there were ample clues to how the state’s monthly snow survey would go.
The meadow that comprises one of 260 snow measuring stations in the state was covered in fresh snow. The hollow tube used for snow measurements had to be extended to 12 feet to reach the ground under the snow.
Last year at this time, snow readings were at a paltry 20 percent of average.
"153 percent of average for this date," said Department of Water Resources spokesman Chris Orrock.
It was not just the 10 feet of snow laying on the ground. When samples were weighed it measured out at 43.5 percent water content.
"If we melted all the snow in the field here we’d get 43.5 inches of water," Orrock said.
As picturesque as it is with all the snow, state water watchers were still cautious because there is now the danger of too much snow.
"You’ve got to take the good with the bad and this week we have seen elevated levels in our streams," said John Paasch with DWR's Flood Operations Center. "We’re starting to see some of our reservoirs starting to release water to make space for what's eventually going to come as melting snow."
In 2017, similarly heavy snowpack melted quickly, causing widespread flooding. The same has begun to happen in locations in the valley.
Still, with most reservoirs at 100 percent of average for the season, it can’t be a bad thing for a state that too often runs low on water during the summer months.
Earlier this week, the DWR its Flood Information Center, which it runs with the National Weather Service to monitors water flows and potential flood danger in the state.
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