Mother Nature wreaked havoc with her fury over the past weekend and into Monday in the Sierra. However, the four days of closed roads, blizzard like conditions and around the clock work for many assured one thing, the piles of snow in the Sierra down to the foothills will assure a bountiful supply of runoff in the months ahead. 

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As of Tuesday, the California Department of Water Resources was reporting that the statewide snowpack had climbed to 104% of average for this time of year. Additionally, the post-storm numbers put the snowpack up to 95% of its April 1 peak average, with three weeks remaining before that date that is used to accurately predict the spring and summer water supply.  The latest numbers were determined from the collaborative 102 snow station sensor readings across the Northern, Central and Southern Sierras Tuesday. 

Even into Tuesday, residents and business owners at the higher elevations were still contending with piles of snowfall. Many were still digging out to either get out of the their homes or getting business into to their establishments. 

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After being closed again on Monday, Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, the closest skiing destination to Folsom and El Dorado Hills, was beginning to resume operations on Tuesday. The heavy snowfall created around the clock labor for resort operators, but the bounty of white stuff left behind will provide plenty of skiing well into the spring months this year. 

Sierra at Tahoe was reporting over 62 inches of new fallen snow Monday afternoon. Heavenly Valley reported 58 inches of snows while Kirkwood was reporting 62 inches of snow from the recent storm.  Now, with the roadway back open, the week ahead is expected to be a busy one for area resorts with excellent conditions and snowpack for the second winter in a row. 

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Above: With some six feet of snow over the weekend, Sierra at Tahoe and other resorts expect a busy week ahead with roadways reopened (Sierra at Tahoe). Top photo: Members of the California Highway Patrol and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department work an accident scene on Highway 50 where a vehicle collided into a snowplow during the weekend storm that brought extreme amounts of snow to the area. (CHP)

“This was a unique storm with sustained record high winds being the biggest factor, creating huge wind drifts and packing the snow down over the last four days. Patrol reported the current snow density at 20%, which you would anticipate being closer to 8-9% given the current temperatures, but the intense winds throughout the storm continually compacted the snow,” explained operators of Sierra at Tahoe in a Tuesday morning report. “This will help in filing in all the nooks n’ crannies that were still exposed before the storm (and) set us with the base we have needed to set the mountain up for incredible “spring skiing,” especially if Mother Nature keeps the storm door open”

At the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab site near Donner Summit, round- observations added up for a four-day total of 75.2 inches of snow. The snowpack water content at that site is now 199% of average for the date.

When it came to the roadways, Highway 50 saw its share of closures, re-openings, more closures, more re-openings and chain controls over the weekend with everything from excessive snow, vehicle spinouts and even a snowslide challenging motorists, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol. 

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Caltrans reported no injuries over the four chaotic days. The weekend didn’t come without incidents however, in addition to spinouts, a snowplow collided into a vehicle that was traveling over the speed limit, causing one of the many delays and closures that took place. 

Just down the hill, residents in Pollock Pines saw 1-2 feet of snow in there are while Camino saw several inches as well. On the other side of the mountain, Interstate 80 was closed at Colfax from Friday all the way through Monday due to the heavy snow and the need for heavy equipment to remove it around the clock.  

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Folsom Lake 126% of average, inflow over 9,000 cfs

So what’s the snowpack mean for those at the lower levels, such as Folsom.  It surely guarantees that boating season will off to a roaring start this year. The boat slips at Folsom Lake Marina are already well afloat this week.

Water storage levels at Folsom Lake were reported 644.067 acre-ft on Tuesday afternoon, which is approximately 127% of normal for this time of year which equates to 505,386 acre feet. The new number indicates the storage increased by 6,397 acre feet in 24 hours. Releases are expected to continue at Folsom and Nimbus Dams as water officials begin to manage the water levels to prepare for the rise in inflow.

The lake is currently at 66% of capacity.  Current releases have the lake’s outflow at 6,149 cubic feet per second while the inflow was at 9,386 cubic feet per second on Tuesday.  The storage one year ago at this time was recorded at 547,197 acre feet. 

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan