Red Flag Warnings, melting Sierra snow may lead to drought proclamation

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sierra saw less snow this year compared to an average season, which led to snow melting more rapidly than normal.

“We have had about 73% of average total snowfall, which doesn’t sound that bad, but where we are at right now with the amount of snowpack on the ground is quite a bit lower than where we would be,” said Andrew Schwartz, meteorologist and snow scientist at UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab in Soda Springs.

Earlier snowmelt allows for the freshwater to evaporate quickly when it gets to the Valley, the Red Flag Warnings are also not helping what little snow remains.

“That just eats up what remaining snowpack that we have,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz explains why wind can help accelerate snowmelt.

“You get continued evaporation in higher amounts on those high wind days because it’s moving that moist air of the top of the snow or off the top of the reservoir rather than letting it sit there and kind of keep a cap on it,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz explains what this means for Sacramento residents.

“We know that climate change is kind of affecting the way that people use their landscapes, how much we water and how much we are able to water,” said City Utilities Spokesperson Carlos Eliason.

Back in 2014, Sacramento residents will remember when a city drought meant lawn watering was only allowed twice a week, a rule the city still implements.

Eliason says it’s too early to tell if another drought will be proclaimed by the city council this summer.

“We are keeping an eye on conditions, we do know that this year is dry in fact a little bit dryer than expected,” Eliason said. “One of the things we want to do is be a good steward to our neighbors as well as our customers and in terms of declaring a drought that is an all-encompassing system.”

If the city of Sacramento does give a drought proclamation, people who don’t follow the rules can get fined up to $500. However, they say education is the ultimate goal.

For more information on the city’s plans for handling drought conditions, click or tap here.

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