Storm forecast to hit this weekend, offering boost to mountain snowpack | TheUnion.com

Storm forecast to hit this weekend, offering boost to mountain snowpack

Justin Scacco
Special to The Union

TRUCKEE — Following the few inches of snow that fell at higher elevations in the Truckee-Tahoe area last weekend, the region is forecast to be hit with a storm that could deliver up to 2 feet of snow to higher elevations in the Sierra, according to the National Weather Service office in Reno.

The weather service issued a special weather statement regarding the potential for a winter storm this weekend that could produce strong winds, cause winter travel conditions, elevate fire weather concerns, and drop up to a foot of snow in Truckee and at Lake Tahoe level.

“There’s still some potential variance in the storm track, so we’re calling for anywhere from a few inches to near a foot at lake level, and then possible amounts of up to 2 feet for the ski elevations,” said Mark Deutschendorf, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “There will be some adjustments as we get closer.”

Ridge top winds are forecast to begin picking up Friday night, said Deutschendorf, and should begin blowing into the Tahoe Basin early Saturday morning.

“Much of the day Saturday should be pretty windy, and at this point, it looks like the Sierra could see snow start to pick up in the afternoon hours,” said Deutschendorf.

The peak period of the storm is forecast to last from Sunday morning into the early evening, bringing continuous snow to the region. The Truckee-Tahoe area could see additional snow showers into Monday and Tuesday.

SURVEYS SAY

The Natural Resource Conservation Service conducted its third manual snow survey of the season in early March, after a storm brought 15 inches of snowfall at the Mt. Rose SNOTEL site, but it only contained 0.6 inches of water.

“(Four percent) density powder is good for skiing but not the best for improving the water supply,” a news release from NRCS said.

Measurements on March 2 showed 63 inches of snow depth and snow water content at 19.3 inches which is 59% of median for the time of year.

The comparison of February 2019 to February 2020 was quite the contrast, with one day of snowfall compared to 24 last year. That one day increased snow water by 0.1 inches compared to 28 inches of snow water increase in 2019. According to the release, from Jan. 1 to March 1, there was only 2.7 inches of snow water added, the second lowest January to February snowpack gain on record only to 2013.

California officials last week conducted a survey of the Sierra Nevada snowpack and found it was 47% of the March average at the Sierra’s Phillips Station.

The first reading on Jan. 2 found the snowpack was 97% of the January average. But dry conditions since then have hurt snowfall, which supplies about 30% of California’s water, the AP reported.

The Associated Press is reporting drought has expanded from just under 10% of the state last week to nearly a quarter, mainly in central California, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor map. The map released weekly shows another 43% of the state is now abnormally dry.

“About 75% of California’s annual precipitation typically occurs from December through February, mostly from what’s known as atmospheric rivers — long plumes of moisture originating far out in the Pacific Ocean,” the AP reported. “But a high-pressure system parked in the Pacific has blocked storms from reaching California and instead steered them to the Pacific Northwest.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.


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