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'Could Not Have Asked For A Better December' – Sierra Snowpack Above Normal After Early Season Storms

PHILLIPS STATION, El Dorado County (CBS SF) – Early season storms that dumped large amounts of snow helped bring the Sierra snowpack to above normal, but California remains in a drought, state water officials said Thursday.

In its first snow survey of the season at Phillips Station, the California Department of Water Resources measured 78.5 inches and a snow water equivalent of 20 inches, which is 202% of average for the location on this date. Statewide, the snowpack is 160% of average for this time of year.

"We could not have asked for a better December in terms of Sierra snow and rain," said Karla Nemeth, the agency's director, who also stressed that these storms are not enough to fully erase the state's massive water deficit.

Sierra Snow Survey
Officials with the Department of Water Resources conducting a snowpack survey at Phillips Station on December 30, 2021. (California Department of Water Resources)

"We need more storms and average temperatures this winter and spring, and we can't be sure it's coming. So, it's important that we continue to do our part to keep conserving – we will need that water this summer," Nemeth went on to say.

Officials also noted the previous two winters were the state's fifth- and second-driest water years on record.

"A wet start to the year doesn't mean this year will end up above average once it's all said and done," said Sean de Guzman, who manages the department's snow surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit.

The snowpack on average provides 30% of the state's water needs.

Thursday's snowpack measurement comes as the federal drought monitor announced that much of the Bay Area has moved from "extreme drought" status into "severe drought" due to the early season storms.

Since the water weather season began on Oct. 1, San Francisco has received 16.16 inches of rain or 201% of what normal would be this time of year. Meanwhile, Livermore has gotten 10.78 inches or 213%, Santa Rosa 21.45 inches or 185% and San Jose 6.64 inches or 165%.

"You just don't get out of a drought like that," KPIX 5 meteorologist Darren Peck said Thursday, snapping his fingers. "But if you are to get out of a drought, this how you do it. This is a huge step in the right direction. You can't do it one month, but you can certainly make a huge improvement and move down that road in a meaningful way."


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