Western High Country Buried under Snowpack

Posted By: The Ski Channel on June 21, 2011 3:11 pm

This spring, the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, Sierra Nevada, and Northern Rockies, experienced massive amounts of snowfall, and those areas remain buried under the thickest snowpack in decades. At high elevations in California, it is not uncommon for snow depth to be 7 feet or more. Snow depth at Lower Lassen Peak in the Feather River drainage was even recorded to be 24 feet.

Although snowpack has been on the decline in the past few years due to rising temperatures, this year’s early spring snowpack in the Sierra was the fifth-largest in the last 60 years, largely due to a blizzard-filled winter and a cool, cloudy spring.

Dam operators worry that as the temperature climbs, the snowpack will melt and cause major floods.

California’s two largest reservoirs are nearly full: Lake Shasta, on the upper Sacramento River, and Lake Oroville, on the Feather River, a tributary of the Sacramento. Three years ago, in the middle of a statewide drought, Oroville was half empty. Water managers predict the biggest flow into Lake Powell since 1997. Lake Mead, which is fed by Powell and supplies Las Vegas and Southern California, is expected to rise 31 feet this year.

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