There has been talk in recent years that this latest drought in California was going to be different this time and more of a “permanent” drought and there was also some talk that European winters would soon be lacking in snow – to say that both of these ideas are being seriously challenged this winter is quite an understatement. In California, incredible amounts of rain have piled up in recent days across low-lying areas of the state, mountains of snow have accumulated in the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada Mountains – and much more is on the way.
California’s rain and snow
There has been so much snow in recent days across California and several other western states (e.g., Nevada, Colorado) that many ski resorts have been forced to close down. Up to ten feet of snow in the past several days has caused the closure of many roads leading to ski resorts such as Woodward Tahoe and Kirkwood in California and the most extreme snow report has come from Mount Rose where 25 feet has accumulated during the recent series of storms. Ski conditions in the Sierra Nevada will no doubt be excellent for weeks to come and more snow is on the way. Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada – and more specifically snowmelt – is crucial to California’s water supply during the rest of the year long after the snow has ended.
Reservoirs in California have seen a significant boost to water content, according to Mercury News, with upwards of 350 billion gallons accounted for as of the last round of storms. Since January 1st, Lake Tahoe has actually risen nearly a foot as a result of the heavy rain and snow according to the National Weather Service. The drought in California actually started to improve quite a bit during the last several months as outlined here and it is now virtually over in the northern half of the state. The first storm in the series arrived in the middle of last week and brought rain to northern and central California. A second storm occurred over the weekend (January 7 and 8) and brought heavy rains again to mostly northern and central California although southern California also received significant amounts. This second event led to widespread flooding, downed trees and mudslides; especially, in the Sierra Nevada where hurricane force winds took place and Interstate 80 was closed due to a massive mudslide.