Abundance of aqua
The current weather year may not end up as the wettest on record for western Nevada County, but precipitation levels have already surpassed the yearly average with more in sight soon.
The Nevada Irrigation District’s reservoirs are all full, snowfall the last month has been heavy and rain levels are up.
“There’s a lot of it,” said Sue Sindt, operations supervisor at NID.
Sindt said an initial low-elevation measurement for next month’s snow survey, conducted Monday at Scotts Flat Lake, showed 38.9 inches of snow with a whopping 16.4 inches of water content. That is 607 percent above normal water content there for this time of year. Sindt expects the higher elevation snowpack to be around 100 percent of the average when the surveys are taken next week.
The recent rash of storms left NID reservoirs full enough to allow the district board to approve surplus water sales for the growing season, according to Don Wight, NID’s operations manager.
Wight said a snowpack reading taken March 1 showed 64 percent of normal, “but obviously since then we’ve had a substantial amount of precipitation and snowpack.”
As of Monday, Grass Valley had already received 62.16 inches of precipitation for the weather year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. The average amount for one year is 53.86 inches, according to the federal Western Regional Climate Center in Reno.
Grass Valley has had about 21 inches of snow in March, more than the annual average rate of 18.75 inches recorded from 1948 to 2005. Jim Beattie at the Grass Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant said “there was none prior to this month.”
Earlier this month, Beattie said he had seen a lot more days of snowfall this year than in any of the 28 he has spent here.
“Normally,” Beattie said at the time, “it snows here maybe three times in winter.”
In Nevada City, 71.59 inches of precipitation had fallen by Monday for the weather year. That’s already far above the 54.24 inches the city averaged from 1914 to 2005 in the federal snow records.
Snow levels for the weather year were unavailable for Nevada City, but according to a spokesman at the city water treatment plant, there has been 39 inches of snowfall there since Jan. 14. That compares to an average of 20.5 inches per year since snow records were kept for the city, from 1932 to 2005.
More on the way
The storm that rolled in Monday will linger through today and is expected to add to the totals, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento.
Snow levels will be at 4,000 feet today according to Harry Stockman at the Qwikcast.com Weather Service. The National Weather Service said the snow level could even reach 3,000 feet tonight.
“There will be a pretty large amount of precipitation,” in the next round of storms,” Stockman said. “We could see a foot to 2 feet of new snow at the higher elevations for the ski resorts.”
Wind gusts could reach 30 to 50 mph across ridge tops and at higher elevations. Mountain travelers are advised to allow plenty of driving time and to keep tire chains, water, food, a blanket and flashlight with them.
The tail end of the storm system could cause residual showers Wednesday, but the chance is slight and drier weather is predicted for Wednesday night and Thursday, Stockman said. There will be another chance for spring rains Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
While precipitation and snow levels are already high, they still have a long way to go before breaking records.
Grass Valley’s 62.16 inches of precipitation so far this weather year compares to 94.77 total inches in 1982-83, 86.32 inches in 1995-96 and 80.56 in 1949-50. The snowfall so far of 21 inches pales in comparison to the 126 inches of 1951-52, the 90 inches of 1948-49 and the 33.5 inches of 1955-56.
Those who say it just doesn’t snow here like it used to are absolutely correct. From 1948 to 1966, the average snowfall in Grass Valley was 28.2 inches. From 1966 to 2005, the average plummeted to 9.3 inches.
The same thing has happened in Nevada City.
This year’s 39 inches of snow are beyond the 20.5 inch average recorded from 1932 to 2005. But it’s far from the 104.8 inches that fell there in 1936-37, the 87 inches of 1951-52 or the 52.7 inches that fell in 1989-90.
However, this year’s precipitation level for Nevada City of 71.59 inches has a way to go before comparing well with the 101.97 inches in 1996, 99.42 inches in 1983 and 89.14 inches in 1995.
According to Monica Stelmaszcyzk at Boreal Mountain Playground, “There’s been a lot of snow the last few weeks,” bringing the base there to 105 to 185 inches of packed powder. About 2 to 3 feet of snow has fallen since last Friday, according to Boreal’s Web site.
At the other Donner Pass ski resort areas, the news is similar. Donner Ski Ranch was reporting a base of 62 to 83 inches of packed powder Monday, with 16 new inches falling since Sunday. Sugar Bowl reported 95 to 194 inches of packed powder with a new foot of snow since last week.
To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem @theunion.com or call 477-4237.
• Weather year so far, 62.16 inches precipitation, 21 inches snow.
• Records, precipitation, 94.77 inches in 1983; snow, 126 inches snow in 1951-52.
• Weather year so far, 71.59 inches precipitation, 39 inches snow.
• Records, precipitation, 101.07 inches in 1996; snow, 104.8 inches in 1936-37.
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