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Sierra snow pack encouraging, but more storms needed to keep it deep

Snow is cleared from Donner Pass Road in Soda Springs, Calif., during one of a series of December storms that gave the region a hefty early snow pack.
Snow is cleared from Donner Pass Road in Soda Springs, Calif., during one of a series of December storms that gave the region a hefty early snow pack. Associated Press

For the first time in years, snowfall in the Sierras has left California’s annual average in its dust.

Buoyed by big December storms, the snow pack is about 150 percent of where it usually is at this time in the year, according to the California Department of Water Resources. And more may be on the way, weather forecasters said.

What could make for a wet Christmas Eve in the Sacramento Valley might also bring precipitation to the mountains – a trend National Weather Service experts said Sunday must continue to have an impact on the drought and snow pack, which has dwindled annually during the historic dry spell of recent years.

Last time the snow was at or above its current level was 2012, forecaster Cindy Matthews said. That year, December rains left behind a significant amount of snow, but it didn’t take long for winter to dry up. The rain stopped, and so did the snow.

“Once January came, the rain cut off and we quickly moved back below normal,” Matthews said. “So, we really want to see this level of snowfall continue into 2015, or we could have a repeat of that.”

Ski resort reports on Sunday showed summit depths of up to 45 inches, at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, and temperatures in the low to mid-30s at most Northern California resorts.

Meanwhile, temperatures in the Sacramento area were expected to remain unseasonably warm through Christmas. The Weather Service predicted a holiday filled with sun and highs in the mid-60s. Overnight lows will dip into the 40s – about 10 degrees warmer than usual.

The week was expected to open with fog cloaking the early mornings and evenings, but little chance of rain until Wednesday. Even then, forecasters said, it’s unlikely Sacramento will see much more than a drizzle.

Call The Bee’s Marissa Lang at (916) 321-1038. Follow her on Twitter at @Marissa_Jae.

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