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Above Average Snowpack in 2016, But Still Drought

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, checks the snowpack depth while performing the snow survey at Phillips Station near Echo Summit, Calif., Wednesday, March 30, 2016. The survey showed the snowpack at about 95 percent of normal for this site at this time of year.

You remember those pictures from last year – officials and their trailing reporters from many western states trekking up to do their annual snowpack measurements.

Except they couldn’t measure the snowpack. They were standing on dry ground.

It was a ringingly clear symbol of the drought.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resource, carries a snow pack measuring tube as he does a preliminary walk around the meadow where the snow survey is held near Echo Summit, Calif., Wednesday, April 1, 2015.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Well, this year’s spring snowpack measurements were a bit different.

At the Mt. Rose ski resort south of Reno, the snow pack was 111 inches, with 42 inches of water coming out of that pack. That’s up 114 percent from normal, and certainly signals a huge change from the year before.

“It’s been great because it actually snowed a normal to an above normal amount across all of northern Nevada, which is fantastic,” said hydrologist at the United States Dept. of Agriculture Jeff Anderson.

Last year at this time 80 percent of the state was in the severe or exceptional drought category. Now, only 35 percent is in that category.

“Now a lot of the state is still on some level of water shortage that’s for sure, but at least we’ve shifted the needle back a little towards normal and out of those really severe categories,” Anderson explained.

The increased moisture is already helping Lake Tahoe, which is up a foot and half. However, if you visit this summer you might still think the lake is low, because according to Anderson, the boat docks were built for a lake level that is normal, which is six feet higher than where it currently is.

“Whether it was El Nino driving it whether there were other things going on, the result was a good result for us especially compared to the last four years,” Anderson said.

While Nevadans from farmers and ranchers to boaters and gardeners will be enjoying the extra moisture, Anderson said the normal water level could last just one season.

“At this point, we may have water in the bank for this summer, but I think moving into the next year is a dry year we may find ourselves back into a worsening drought situation,” he said.

Jeff Anderson, Hydrologist at the United States Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)