Storms to help below-normal snowpack |

Storms to help below-normal snowpack

Thursday’s snow survey by state water experts was the first of the 2007-2008 snowfall season.

Although readings show the snowpack at below normal levels for the date, rain, snow and wind are predicted for Northern California starting late today, with precipitation expected all day Friday.

The Central Valley forecast calls for several inches of rain, while at least five feet of

snow is expected in high Sierra elevations.

Arthur Hinojosa, chief of the California Department of Water Resource’s Hydrology Branch, said Sierra snow levels are expected to begin at 6,000 feet and drop to below 4,000 feet through the weekend with another weaker system forecast across Northern California early next week.

“The pending storms should provide the state with a much-needed helping of snow,” said Hinojosa. “We hope to get close to the January average precipitation for the Northern Sierra over the next week.”

Electronic sensor readings show Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 64 percent of normal for this date, Central Sierra at 53 percent, and Southern Sierra at 69 percent. Statewide, the percentage of normal is 60.

Snow-water content is important in determining the year’s water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry.

The surveys are particularly significant this year because last year’s snowpack yielded only 30 percent of the normal water content. Reservoirs are low, as well, with Lake Oroville holding only 35 percent of its 3.5 million acre foot capacity, 55 percent of average for this time of year. Because less-than-normal water supply conditions exist, the initial State Water Project allocation for 2008 was placed at 25 percent of water contractors’ requested amounts.

The next survey will take place in approximately one month’s time.

In addition to the single manually measured site, the public can find real-time readings of statewide water content posted on the Internet at

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