Above-average Sierra snowpack deepens
January’s continuous stream of stormy winter weather left behind above-average snowpacks ” good news for those watching the water supply, but a mixed-bag for local businesses.
Results from the California Department of Water Resources’ snow survey completed on Jan. 31 near Echo Summit on Highway 50 revealed snowpacks that were more than seven feet deep, or 123 percent above average for this time of year.
There is 75 percent more water in the snowpack this year than there was at the same point last season, the survey said. And across the entire Sierra Nevada the snowpack is 111 percent of average.
Data paints a similar picture for North Lake Tahoe and Truckee. The snowpack is 121 percent and 108 percent above average respectively, according to the Western Regional Climate Center at the Desert Research Institute.
Readings in Tahoe City showed 15 inches of water in the snowpack on Feb. 1, said Dr. Kelly Redmond, a regional climatologist with the research institute. Data taken on same day in 2007 showed only 5 inches.
“We’re sitting pretty good right now,” Redmond said. “But we have had a number of years in the past where it shut off in the spring.”
Elissa Lynn, a senior meteorologist for the Department of Water Resources, said that while it’s too early to project how this winter’s snowpack will ultimately affect the state’s water supply, the storms in January were a boost for the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Delta.
“Last year was dry to critical for our [snow] runoff,” Lynn said. “One month is good, but we need a good full season to make up for last year’s deficit.”
The Department of Water Resources will be compiling an official report on the projected water supply, based on the snowpack data, at the end of the month, said Lynn.
Business owners throughout the Tahoe Truckee area had a lot to say about how the storms affected their business.
For some, the massive amounts of snow will double their revenues. Others reported quite the opposite.
Patty Baird, owner of the Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee, said her lodging is practically booked on every weekend through March, with only a few of her 42 rooms available at times.
Baird said her revenues doubled last month compared to the prior year.
“I have to attribute it to both snow and also word of mouth,” Baird said. “More people know of our presence here.”
But Tahoe City business owner Maria Baruh, who owns the women’s fine clothing store, La Panache, said the treacherous snow storm conditions are keeping out-of-town visitors off the roads and out of the area. The people who are coming into town are coming to ski not to shop, Baruh said.
“Most of us have had a lot of zero days ” and it’s not just me,” Baruh said.
Monte Webb, who owns Jason’s Beachside Grille in Kings Beach, said the traffic flow in his restaurant has been pretty normal. But he expected things to pick up when the skies clear.
“I’m just expecting it to get better with as much snow as we’ve got,” Webb said. “I’m hoping anyway.”
Barb Cohen, who owns the Shore House bed and breakfast in Tahoe Vista, also expected more people to come up once the roads are in better condition.
“[The visitors] want the new snow,” Cohen said. “But they don’t want to drive in the mess on the roads.”