Latest storm excites resorts, sustains snowpack | SierraSun.com
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Latest storm excites resorts, sustains snowpack

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun
Greyson Howard/Sierra SunThe fog burns off of Donner Lake Thursday morning after another round of fresh snow fell on the area.
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TAHOE BASIN ” Despite an active weather pattern that deposited feet of snow at high elevations in the Sierra, this winter’s snowpack levels still look pretty bleak, hydrologists say.

“It’s getting tougher and tougher to overcome the deficit,” said Dan Greenlee, a hydrologist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

But while any accumulation of snow is good news at this point, the short-lived storms that have moved rapidly through the area in 12-hour periods are barely keeping snowpack levels on an even keel.

“These storms are going to improve the snowpack numbers by a few percentage points, but we’re not in a situation that can be easily dug out of,” said Greenlee.

Typically, snowpack levels accumulate throughout the season in a pattern that resembles a bell curve, which builds steadily from December through February and peaks around April 1.

But a very dry January has pulled snowpack percentages down to nearly 60 percent of average, and it’s so late in the game that only a series of heavy hitting storms will replenish the Sierra snowpack to where it should be.

In order to meet an average year’s snowpack, Greenlee said we would need to see 185 percent of average snowfall for almost two months.

To put that in perspective, our current storm pattern ” about one storm every other day ” would need to continue well in to March just to bring snowpack levels up to 100 percent.

Greenlee anticipates this week’s weather pattern will boost snowpack levels by 5 percent.

“We’re not really gaining anything, but we’re not really losing anything at this rate,” he added.

Though hydrologists harbor feeble feelings about the recent storm pattern’s impact on the snowpack, ski resorts see the recent snow as a financial lifesaver and a huge morale boost for the community.

“New snow is exciting to people who live here,” said Rachael Woods, Alpine Meadows Public Relations, “it peaks the interest of people who are thinking about visiting and an increase in vacationers is very good for business within the community.”

Especially before a holiday period like Presidents’ Day, a “parade of storms” can result in an incredible boom in business, said Savannah Cowley, Squaw Valley USA Media and Public Relations.

But while the string of storms has resorts anticipating positive short term effects, they’ve also been instilled with optimism for the remainder of the season.

“A series of storms bringing multiple feet of snow to Squaw Valley in February provides great insurance that we will have ample snowpack throughout the season,” said Cowley. “Snowfall dictates business; the better business is, the long we will be able to stay open.”

Another Northern Pacific storm with the potential to be the deepest and wettest so far in the series, will be right on the heels of Friday’s storm, according to the National Weather Service forecast discussion.

As long as the storm holds together, it looks to bring a significant amount of snowfall to the Sierra, thanks to a deep moisture tap along with a strong jet ” a fast-moving wind current surrounded by slower moving air ” aloft.

Total precipitation and snow water equivalent percent of average for the Lake Tahoe Basin based on NRCS SNOTEL sites in eight locations around the Lake.

Feb. 9

Precip: 73 percent

Snow water: 64 percent

Feb. 10

Precip: 73 percent

Snow water: 63 percent

Feb. 11

Precip: 74 percent

Snow water: 64 percent

Feb. 12

Precip: 75 percent

Snow water: 66 percent


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