High up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it seems like good news with the huge snowpack. The signs that California is emerging from its brutal five-year drought are everywhere, from a whopping snowpack in the Sierra Nevada to a spectacular “super bloom” that is turning some deserts into rare and dazzling displays of color.
The snowpack along the 400-mile mountain range, which stretches north to south along the Nevada border, is critical to California’s water supply. On average, it provides about 30% of the state’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer, the state Department of Water Resources noted.
In its latest snow survey completed Thursday, the department found the snowpack for the entire Sierra Nevada was at 164% of average for this time of year. The northern region was at 147%, the central at 175% and the southern at 164%.
“The difference is visually stunning, but it’s the pattern of West Coast weather,” state snow survey chief Frank Gehrke said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The winter weather in California is feast or famine. We have very dry years followed by extremely wet years.”
The snow was so deep this year at around 9,000 feet in the central Sierras that a CNN crew was not able to return to the spot they reached two years ago.
In Yosemite National Park, a kiosk at the top of Tioga Pass that was easily accessible two years ago is now completely covered in snow. “Except for the flagpole and the antenna, you would not know that there is a building there,” said Gehrke, according to KTLA.
On the downside, the huge snow buildup prompted Los Angeles Major Eric Garcetti last week to declare a state of emergency for the region over concerns of that the melting in the eastern Sierra Nevada would threaten homes in rural areas of Owens Valley hundreds of miles north of the city.
The flood issue is frequently a tense one for Los Angeles, which surreptitiously bought rights to water in the valley and channeled it south more than a century ago. The emergency declaration cleared the way for the Department of Water and Power to spend up to $50 million to respond to any damage to public health and safety and to protect infrastructure and the environment.