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Snowpack boost relies on “Miracle March”


By Kristen Hackbarth | Photos by Isaac Hoops

Officials are once again hoping for a “Miracle March” to boost the region’s snowpack and avoid a drought after measuring the Sierra snowpack at the Mt. Rose SNOTEL station Monday afternoon.

Natural Resources Conservation Service Hydrologist Jeff Anderson and Truckee Meadows Water Authority Water Supply Administrator Bill Hauck invited media along for another of their regular monitoring operations.

The snowpack, measuring in at 68 inches deep with 21.1 inches of water content, is about 65% of median for March 1. Only three inches of water content has been added to the snowpack since Feb. 1, about a third of normal.

Anderson said a Miracle March could turn things around. Last year on March 1 there was just 18.7 inches of water content, but precipitation from mid-March through early April was 192% of average, boosting the snowpack measure from 46% of median to 72% of median by April 7.

The situation is the same through most of northwestern Nevada–including the Tahoe, Truckee, Carson and Walker basins–with basin-wide snowpack percentages coming in anywhere from 63% to 71%. Precipitation in the region is only about 60% of normal.

Based on historical data, NCRS estimates the chance of recovering to normal snowpacks by April 1 is only about 10% to 20%.

What little water is on the mountain is unlikely to fill Lake Tahoe and Lahontan Reservoir. Officials said the lack of rain last fall has left the soils at near record dry levels, and snowmelt will first fill in the soil, leaving little as runoff.

The story is less grim in northeastern and central Nevada where mid-February snowfall picked up significantly. Both the Northern Great Basin and Lower Humboldt SNOTEL measurement areas normal, at 97% of median and 107% of median, respectively.Check out photos from today’s measurement in the gallery below.

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