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How healthy is California snowpack? Snow survey site has 4th-best start to April ever

Latest snow survey reaching 178% of average for central Sierra

Come along for a helicopter ride as PG&E's snow survey finds up to 178% of average levels of snow including at Blackcap Basin in the Sierra National Forest
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Come along for a helicopter ride as PG&E's snow survey finds up to 178% of average levels of snow including at Blackcap Basin in the Sierra National Forest

Already having soared past average statewide snow-water levels for the calendar year, Tuesday saw some more good news for California’s water health.

Department of Water Resources officials announced a measurement of 106.5 inches of snow at Phillips Station, good for a snow-water equivalent of 51 inches. Tuesday’s result marked the fourth-highest level ever recorded at that location to kick off April.

Just like the three prior months’ manual surveys at the station near Echo Summit, the results align with a continued statewide boost as snowy weather has been present virtually all of 2019.

At 45.1 inches of average snow-water equivalent statewide, California is now 162 percent of normal for the start of April, according to DWR’s data center. The Phillips Station was a full 200 percent of normal — in other words, double the average snow-water equivalent.

“It’s been a great, great winter,” DWR Chief of Hydrology and Flood Operations John Pasch said, “but it’s not all fun and games.”

Water managers will need to analyze data to make decisions about runoff releases. Manual snow surveys like Tuesday’s are critical in that regard, Pasch said.

The healthy snowpack is also well-distributed. The northern two-thirds of the Sierra are about 165 percent of average, and the southern Sierra is 153 percent of average, data show.

January through March saw sustained moderate to heavy storm systems drop consistent blankets of snow throughout Northern California. A total of at least 30 atmospheric river systems in California has contributed to some of those storms.

Moderate snow storms have continued into April, with 1 to 2 feet of snow expected this weekend in parts of the Sierra.

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