The latest snow level is a good sign, “but that’s it — it’s a start,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources.
After a major four year drought, Gehrke plunged a measuring pole into a thick field of snow in the Central Sierra, which includes Lake Tahoe. His survey followed an electronic measurement last week that put the water content of the snowpack at 112 percent of normal. Even more snow has fallen since then.
The snowpack provides about 30 percent of California’s water supply during the months when it melts and rushes through rivers and streams to fill reservoirs that remain critically low.
Last Jan. 1, the snowpack was a meager 45 percent of the historical average. On April 1, it had dropped to a record low of 5 percent.
Gehrke said snow must continue falling through April for him to feel confident the drought is easing.
“There’s going to be those anxious moments when we start to get into a week, a week-and-a-half with no snow,” he said.
A major El Nino system — a warming in the Pacific Ocean that alters weather worldwide — is expected to impact California and the rest of the nation in the coming months, according to a NASA report released Tuesday.