And the survey says " dismal snowpack | SierraSun.com

And the survey says " dismal snowpack

RENO (AP) ” The Sierra Nevada snowpack is dismal at best, according to monthly snow surveys by hydrologists.

Scientists measured about 2.5 feet of snow near the Mount Rose summit southwest of Reno. Last year at this time, there was about 15 feet.

Water content amounted to 8.4 inches, about 32 percent of normal.

“It’s not good, not good at all,” Dan Greenlee, a hydrologist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, said Thursday. “It’s a pretty sad situation right now.”

California Department of Water Resources found snowpack water content averaging only 43 percent of normal over the 400-mile-long mountain range.

Levels were slightly higher in the northern Sierra ” 48 percent of normal ” and slightly lower in the central and southern Sierra ” 40 percent.

The only other year it’s been so dry at Mount Rose, where the government has kept records since 1981, was the winter of 1990-91, Greenlee said.

The snowpack that year was rescued by a “Miracle March,” which buried the Sierra in late-season snow.

After two back-to-back heavy winters, the difference this winter is striking.

“It’s like night and day, a complete turnaround,” Greenlee said.

To get just an average April 1 snowpack, Greenlee said, it would have to snow twice as much as would normally be expected for the remainder of the season.

Nevertheless, Frank Gehrke, the California department’s snow survey chief, said changes in that state’s weather over the next couple of months could improve snow levels.

“We’re obviously running low right now, but you never know what Mother Nature will do,” Gehrke said. “In 1963 we had no snow at all on this date yet we registered 20 inches between February and April.”

Tourism officials said the shortage hasn’t had too much of an impact at ski resorts around Lake Tahoe, many of which have invested heavily in snowmaking equipment.

Lake Tahoe traditionally receives most of its snowfall in February and March, said Andy Chapman, tourism director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

“It’s only February 2,” Chapman said Friday.

“We still have a long winter ahead of us, one that promises to bring low temperatures and the optimal snow pack that our economy relies on,” he said.