PHILLIPS STATION, Calif. (CBSLA/AP) — January storms raised the vital Sierra Nevada snowpack to normal for this time of year, an important development for California’s water supply, state officials said Thursday after the second survey of the winter.
The snowpack was 100 percent of average to date, the California Department of Water Resources said.
“This is a significant increase since the last survey,” said John King, a water resources engineer who conducted a manual survey of a snow course at Phillips Station, one of hundreds of locations measured.
At the site, the snow depth measured 50 inches (127 centimeters) with a snow-water equivalent of 18 inches (46 centimeters). That’s 98 percent of average to date at the location, the agency said.
On Feb. 1, 2018, Phillips Station had a snow-water equivalent only 14 percent of average.
When the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts in spring and summer it provides about 30 percent of California’s water needs. Persistent drought has also dried out trees and brush, contributing to severe wildfires.
“It’s a start, but the next two or three months will determine what it means for our reservoirs and overall water supply,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement.
The measurement came as wet and snowy January ended with yet another storm impacting the state and another, potentially more potent, tempest following about a day behind.
Downtown San Francisco received more than a half-inch (1.25 centimeters) of rain by early morning before the storm spread southeastward, causing roadway flooding and small debris flows.
Southeast of Los Angeles residents were ordered to evacuate areas of Riverside County near mountain slopes burned bare by a wildfire last summer.
Authorities ordered long stretches of beaches and piers closed along the Southern California coast because of lightning, and a JetBlue flight headed to New York returned safely to Los Angeles International Airport after the crew reported the aircraft was struck by lightning.
Thursday’s storm was expected to pass by Thursday night, but that won’t be the end of the wet weather. Another, much wetter storm will move into Southern California Friday night into Saturday. This second storm is expected to dump as much as three inches of rain on the area along with gusty winds of 40 to 60 mph.
A third storm is forecast to bring scattered showers into the area, but more importantly, could bring snow to mountain passes like the Grapevine.
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