Californians have seen the largest snowpack that has ever been recorded, but instead of celebrating that fact, they are now worried that the state could be at high-risk for flooding as the temperatures begin to warm.
The state’s snow survey chief, Frank Gehrke, made his monthly trip out to the snow in the Sierra Nevadas outside the town of Phillips, where he found that the snow registered up to 94 inches thick.
The winter from 2016 into 2017 created the largest snowpack in California’s history, and it has enough water to keep the reservoirs in the state swollen and possibly lift the long-standing water restrictions that have plagued the state for some time now.
California Free of their Super Drought Finally?
California has certainly been no stranger to droughts, as the state has faced one of the most severe droughts in history for several years now. However, the snowpack that goes along the 400-mile mountain range provides the state with an average of 30% of its water needs, and it is more than adequate to meet the burden this year.
The snowpack was at 164% average for this time of the year, and the differences from the year before are stunning.
Already the snow is at around 9,000 feet in the Sierras, and it was so thick that a news crew from CNN could not reach the spot they visited the year before.
Some areas of California are rarely away from the drought threats, and the United States Drought map shows that there are still signs of severe drought in the far southern regions of the state bordering Arizona. There is a moderate drought zone just west of Santa Barbara and to the east of San Bernardino too.
Snowmelt Season Coming Soon
Spring marks the start of snowmelt season, and as the snowpack begins to melt away, there will be higher water lines in rivers throughout the area. While this will be plentiful for the state’s water supply, rivers and dams could experience significant overflow.
However, most feel that the measurements and the volume of water coming from the snowpack will be enough. Further, since the state is exiting the years of drought, the mandatory water conservation rules might soon be eased, but not lifted entirely.
Due to the severe risk of flooding, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared a state of emergency due to the potential for flooding in the eastern Sierra Nevada and the Owen Valley area. He listed a concern that the flooding could threaten numerous homes.
The flood risks have already forced the Department of Water and Power to spend $50 million to respond to damage if the flooding should occur. Also, they will have funding to protect infrastructure and the surrounding environment as the snowpack starts to melt off.
Los Angeles has recently purchased rights to water in the valley and has channeled it south, but that will not be enough to distribute water evenly across the state and prevent floods.