Tahoe Nugget #61:
Winter 2006 — A Real Drought Buster (3 Photos)
April 4, 2006
The storms keep coming, but it's all gravy now. The Sierra Nevada has received so much precipitation in the last two years, that the 5 year drought has officially ended. March was one of the coldest and
wettest since 1849 in many locations in Northern California (a record 25 rainy days in San Francisco), and now April has also opened with a bang. On Saturday, the April 1, 2006 snow survey indicated that the upper
elevation snowpack (ranging from 12 to 20 feet deep) is loaded with 130% to 150% of its average water content. That means much more runoff into Lake Tahoe this spring, boosting its level in addition to the four feet
it has already risen so far this winter.
In the last 36 hours, Mammoth Mountain ski area picked up another 50 inches of snow and tonight will probably exceed its all-time record of 617 inches of snow in one
season (since 1969). Indicative of the back-to-back heavy winters, last year Mammoth received 607 inches. Kirkwood ski resort is boasting a snow pack 27 feet deep, the result of more than 61 feet of snow so far this
winter. But, no matter how deep the snow is, Kirkwood and many other ski resorts will be closing in a few weeks. By the middle of April each year, there are just not enough skiers out there to make it economically
worthwhile for the resorts to stay open. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, however, have targeted Memorial Day Weekend for their closing date.
Drought busting winters in the West often bring major floods and
wholesale destruction, but costs this year (so far) will be considered relatively minor despite damage estimated in the tens of millions of dollars across the region. Persistent rain and snow has drenched Northern
California and Western Nevada for the past five weeks and flood issues are again a major concern on regional rivers draining saturated watersheds. Dangerously high water has already topped sections of the extensive
California levee system, and sand bags are once again in place in flood prone areas. Today a levee failed along the Cosumnes River in southern Sacramento County, but fortunately no homes were in the immediate impact
area. Despite severe budget issues still facing California, Governor Schwarzenegger is pushing forward an ambitious and expensive levee strengthening program (it became a high priority after Hurricane Katrina), but
engineers are having a hard time inspecting the extensive flood protection system due to high and dangerous water levels.
Photo #1: Tree buried in snow on Mt. Rose in mid-March. Compare to Nugget #26 First
Photo #2: Winter-like storms continue to batter Lake Tahoe this spring.
Photo #3: Life on Donner Summit - Southern Pacific RR telegrapher and family at front door of home.