Tahoe snowpack drops to mid-80 percentages after poor February
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — While a dry February may have been detrimental to the Sierra Nevada snowpack, the early March forecast is showing significant potential for recovery.
“February wasn’t good at all,” California Department of Water Resources chief of snow surveys David Rizzardo said. “It was almost a dud as far as precipitation.”
While the Tahoe region entered February with snow-water content between 120 and 135 percent of average, the central and northern Sierra dipped to between 82 and 86 percent as of March 3.
“It was a huge drop off,” Rizzardo said. “The air came out of the tires a bit in February.”
Typically February is one of the wettest months for the region, recording an average of 8 inches of precipitation. The Tahoe Basin, however, received a disappointing 2.5 inches last month.
Still, the snowpack at higher elevations remains close to average, National Weather Service Reno senior hydrologist Tim Bardsley said.
“Despite the lackluster February, snowpack conditions are near normal in the basin and the most favorable for this time of year since 2011,” he explained.
With significant precipitation in the forecast, Rizzardo said the region could recover quickly.
“It’s possible we might see an entire (month’s) average that we expect in March in one week,” he said of what meteorologists call an “atmospheric river” of precipitation directed at the West Coast. “It kind of comes in these blasts. This is exactly that kind of situation. It could catch us right back up to average pretty easily.”
Early predictions for next week included 8 to 10 inches of precipitation. March averages 6.9 inches, Rizzardo said.
Just how much of that precipitation falls as snow remains to be seen, with forecast models predicting fluctuating snowline elevations.
Opensnow.com is predicting a potential for over 2 feet at higher elevations through the weekend with more precipitation through next week.
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