Dry spell ate away at snowpack of drought-ridden California

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, checks the depth of the snowpack as he conducts the third manual snow survey of the season, at Phillips Station near Echo Summit on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

ECHO SUMMIT — An unwelcome three-week winter dry spell left the California snowpack at just 83 percent of average, a setback for the state as it tries to break out of record drought, state snow surveyors found Tuesday.

In an icy meadow in California’s central Sierra Nevada, state surveyor Frank Gehrke plunged poles into snowbanks, measuring how much snow was lost to a February with record warm temperatures and little rain.

Californians depend on snowfall for a third of their water and have hoped this year’s strong El Nino system would deliver heavy snow and rain.

After a wet December and January, however, sunshine and blue skies returned, bringing temperatures in the 90s to Southern California last month.

The year had a “very good start, and then … February just did not come through,’ Gehrke said.

Gehrke’s measuring site showed snowpack at 105 percent of average, compared to 130 percent at the same spot the month before.

Statewide, snowpack Tuesday was at 83 percent of normal, officials said.

California last year marked its driest four-year spell on record, leading Gov. Jerry Brown last April to order mandatory 25 percent water conservation for cities and towns. The conservation order remains in effect.

Officials say bringing the state out of drought would require snowpack at 150 percent of average by April 1.

December, January and February typically are the wettest months in California. However, late spring storm patterns dubbed “March Miracles” helped ease dry spells in 1991 and 1995, state Department of Water Resources officials noted.

Californians can still hope for such a miracle this week, when changing weather patterns promise to send a series of storms over the state, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters expect as much as 7 inches of rain in Northern California in the coming days and heavy snow in the mountains.CaliforniaCalifornia droughtCalifornia snowpackEcho SummitEl NinoJerry BrownSierra Nevada

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

City officials closed San Francisco County Jail No. 4 on the top floor of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St. in September, reducing the number of beds in the jail system by about 400. 
Kevin N. Hume/
S.F. Examiner
SF jail closure prompts doctor to call for release of more inmates

Reduced space increases risk of COVID-19 spreading among those in custody

Cyclists have flocked to Market Street since private vehicles were largely banned from a long stretch of it in January. (Amanda Peterson/Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Plans for sidewalk-level bikeway on Market Street dropped due to costs, increased cyclist volume

Advocates say revisions to Better Market Street fail to meet safety goals of project

Prop. 21 would allow San Francisco city officials to expand rent control to cover thousands more units. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Tenant advocates take another try at expanding rent control with Prop. 21

Measure would allow city to impose new protections on properties 15 years or older

Tenderloin residents are finding benefits to having roads closed in the neighborhood. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Should there be fewer cars in the Tenderloin’s future?

The pandemic has opened San Franciscans’ eyes to new uses of urban streets

Singer-songwriter Cam is finding musicmaking to be healing during 2020’s world health crisis. 
Courtesy 
Dennis Leupold
Cam challenges country music tropes

Bay Area-bred songwriter releases ‘The Otherside’

Most Read