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Latest statewide snow survey shows plenty of snow still in Sierra Nevada

Number reflects average snow melt of about 12 inches over past month
(R) Sean de Guzman, Manager of the California Department of Water Resources Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit, inserts the a long aluminum snow depth survey pole into the snow during the final snow survey of the 2023 season on May 1, 2023 at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Eldorado County, Calif. Assisting in the survey is Anthony Burdock and Jordan Thoennes, both of the Department of Water Resources Engineers in the Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Unit. (Ken James/California Department of Water Resources via Bay City News)

The state's latest snowpack measurements are in and the results won't shock anyone who spent the winter in storm-wracked California this year — there's still a huge amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada.

The California Department of Water Resources released its snow survey data Monday, May 1, after conducting a manual measurement at Phillips Station in El Dorado County and compiling information from its network of 130 snow sensors throughout the state.

The manual measurement shows 59 inches of snow with a snow-water equivalent of 30 inches, which is 241% of average for Phillips Station on May 1, according to DWR.

The sensors show the statewide snowpack's snow-water equivalent at 49.2 inches, or 254% of average for this date.

"The snow water equivalent measures the amount of water still contained in the snowpack and is a key component of DWR's water supply run-off forecast," DWR officials said in a news release Monday.

According to DWR, only three other times in history have the survey results eclipsed 200%, in 1952, 1969 and 1983, although data from those years isn't as comprehensive as the current numbers.

The statewide number released Monday reflects an average snow melt of about 12 inches over the past month, which is a slower pace than normal for April and is attributable to below average temperatures earlier in the month as well as increased cloud cover during that period, according to DWR.

The data will help water managers and reservoir operators anticipate the amount of spring and summer runoff they can expect to move through the state's massive water storage and delivery systems as temperatures warm and cloudy skies give way to sunshine.

The information is vital to drinking water districts, farmers, cities and flood control systems, especially in vulnerable and already flooded regions like the San Joaquin Valley and communities along the Central Coast like Pajaro.

"The snowpack will not disappear in one week or one month but will lead to sustained high flows across the San Joaquin and Tulare Basins over the next several months and this data will help us inform water managers and ultimately help protect communities in these regions," said DWR Director Karla Nemeth.

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