Friday February 3, 2023

San Francisco Chronicle

The snowpack in California’s mountains weighed in Wednesday as the biggest it has been at the start of February in nearly three decades, a product of the recent storms that have flipped the script on drought by lessening water shortages across the state.

State water officials conducting their monthly snow survey logged snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades at 205% of the average for the date. At Phillips Station, one of the state’s oldest and most central monitoring sites, where surveyors convened in front of TV cameras for measurements Wednesday morning, the snowpack was 193% of average.

The numbers are welcome relief for California after its driest three-year period on record. Melted snow supplies nearly a third of the state’s drinking and irrigation water, and it usually comes at a critical time — when the rains are over and summer water demand kicks in.

But the amount of the snow that makes it to California’s taps, as it begins to thaw and wash down mountainsides into reservoirs, hinges on several yet-to-be-determined variables, including how much more snow falls, how early it melts and how much soaks into the ground. Any number of things could undo the state’s fickle recovery from drought.

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