California Snowpack Is Huge, and 'Big Melt' Poses Risks

Snow is at deepest level in about 70 years
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 4, 2023 3:10 PM CDT
Wild Winter Brings California Deepest Snowpack in Decades
Members of a Cal Fire crew clear snow off the roof of the town's post office.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

California officials say winter storms have resulted in the state's deepest snowpack in 70 years, reports the Los Angeles Times. All that frozen water is good news for drought-stricken parts of California, but the liquid volume of the Sierra Nevada snowpack—which the Times says is greater than that of Lake Mead—could spell real trouble in terms of spring floods. Calling it the "big melt," UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain pointed out that "all of that water is going to have to come downhill sooner rather than later." California established a series of snow sensors in the '80s, and the Times reports the most recent reading was a whopping 237% more water volume than normal for early April, a record under the new measurement system. It ties a mark from 1952, made with different, outdated methods.

The melting snow will soon begin flowing into reservoirs, and, in Swain's words, fill them "multiple times over, which means that essentially, those reservoir operators are going to have to release water continuously." Only ongoing water release will keep the dams and reservoirs safe from damage or overflow, Swain said. Los Angeles TV station KTLA reported Monday that California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently issued orders walking back some state drought restrictions, but he also requested a disaster declaration from the president to put assistance in place to aid Californians affected by floods from the Golden State's historic series of winter storms. More than half the state is now free of drought conditions thanks to the winter weather, per the station. (More California stories.)

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