First Snow Survey Reveals 'Normal' Snowpack

Jon Klusmire, Inyo Register Correspondent and Wendilyn Grasseschi, Times Reporter
Staff Writer

A steady stream of snowstorms hitting the Eastern Sierra over the past six weeks have delivered a firm foundation for the 2019-2020 snowpack; and more storms are forecast for the coming weeks.

A burst of storms at the end of November brought a good start to the snow season, dumping almost eight feet of snow on Mammoth Mountain, and producing record snowfall in Bishop and much of Southern Inyo County.

December saw more storms that provided enough snow to generate normal snowpack levels in the Eastern Sierra by Jan. 2, when the first snowpack survey of the winter season was taken by the state, and, in the areas where they have the water rights, by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Those storms had a bit more impact on the state'soverall snowpack, which was pegged at 113 percent of average this week.

The latest reading of DWP snowpack for Mammoth, however, showed a snowpack at about 10.9 inches, which is about 64 percent of normal for the date of Dec. 31. The snow pillow technology used for the survey can be unreliable and more measurements, done manually in the Mammoth Pass area, will likely add more data to this reading.

More optimistic was the Owens Valley Snow Pillows, which showed a snowpack that was about 96 percent of normal to date for the Owens Valley. There, the snowpack had about nine inches of water equivalent. Bigger picture, statewide, the November storms basically ended the remnants of drought in California, according to the state. For example, on Dec. 12, about 96 percent of the state was drought free; a jump of 10 percent over previous readings.

The first snowpack reading from the California Department of Water Resources on Jan. 2 put the state snowpack at 113 percent of average. The statewide snowpack is also 182 percent higher than in mid-December of 2017, which, thanks to big storms starting in January, was the Owens Valley's wettest snow year. The department reported that the Southern Sierra snow levels came in at 131 percent of aver-age to date, with the Central Sierra at 116 percent of average and the Northern Sierra at 99 percent of average.

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