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3rd Northern California snowpack survey sees big improvement, but next month is crucial

State officials conduct 3rd Northern California snow survey of season
State officials conduct 3rd Northern California snow survey of season 01:47

This weekend's storm is expected to boost snowfall totals in the Northern California Sierra Nevada.

The winter weather is rolling in just in time for a third snowpack survey conducted by the state. In fact, it's causing the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to move it up an entire day.

A crew with the DWR is measuring the snow in a meadow at Phillips Station for their March 1 survey, recording a depth of almost four feet and a snow water content of 18 inches.

"That's about a foot and a half. If you took 48 inches and melted it down, that's essentially 18 inches of liquid water that we're standing on," said Andy Reising.

Reising is a water resources engineer in the snow surveys and water supply forecasting unit. He said we are nearly 80% of average to date and 74% of where we need to be by April 1, typically when we peak. A string of recent storms helped boost snowpack totals.

"Back on January 1, we were 3 inches of snow water content," Reising said. "February 1, 10 inches of snow water content, and now we're at 18."

It was a late start due to warmer storms earlier in the season that helped boost precipitation levels statewide to just above 100 percent but not snowpack levels.

That means the next month is critical. It will take several additional cold storms to put us where we need to be heading into the summer months. The good news is that this storm rolling in is going to be the biggest of the year — and a cold one.

"It will be a good snow producer, producing snow at low and high elevations," Reising said. "And so we're pleased to announce that's coming and that will help get us towards average, maybe above average to this date."

To put this into perspective, last year, with all those atmospheric rivers, the snowpack was double the average for there as of this date.

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