Sierra Snowpack Well Above Normal

ECHO SUMMIT -- Snow was falling Tuesday near Echo Summit as state snow surveyors began their monthly task in a mountain meadow.

With so many storms in March, the numbers weren’t a huge surprise. The snow at the survey site is at 200 percent of normal for this time of year.

When weight out, the nearly 9 feet of snow had 51 inches of water content.

“If all the snow in the field we’re standing in right now melted, we’d be standing in 51 inches of water,” Department of Water Resources spokesman Chris Orrock said.

Fortunately, all that water will stay locked in the snowpack well into the summer, but there’s a tricky part.

“We don’t get to determine how fast that snow comes off as runoff into our reservoirs,” DWR hydrology and flood management chief John Paasch said.

Below 6,000 feet, the snow falling higher up became rain. Very little snow could be seen at the lower elevations -- a victim of warmer temperatures over the past couple of weeks despite the storms.

As the spring weather continues to get warmer, more water will continue to go downstream into valley rivers.

Fast flowing rivers are filling state reservoirs fast. Balancing storage needs while saving space for increased runoff means monitoring water levels closely, as well as the weather, while hoping for moderate temperature changes.

In the meantime, those who live near rivers and streams this spring should beware.

“Sometime during the year, when that river’s going to rise and that river’s going to run fast and it’s going to run cold and hopefully people are being cautious,” Paasch said.

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