With a slow start to the winter season, weather watchers have started to get nervous about the snowpack and the possibility of a third year of California drought. So far the Eastern Sierra appears better off than other areas of the range.
On Tuesday, forecasters for the National Weather Service out of Reno stated that the snowpack in the Tahoe Basin is at 3% of normal for the year. With no significant storms in the foreseeable future, NWS forecasters said that there will be a hefty deficit to make up to prevent the region from seeing three consecutive years of below normal precipitation.
While the state Department of Water Resources recorded a below normal snowpack for the northern and central Sierra last year, the southern Sierra, including the Eastern Sierra, met the threshold for normal last year.
So far this year, areas to the north remain far below normal for the season. The northern region checks in at 6% of normal for this time of year, the central region has 11% normal snowpack to date, while the southern Sierra is higher with 34% of normal.
While snow levels were high for the biggest storm of the season that hit at in the beginning of November, the DWP website lists the Cottonwood Lakes, south of Mt. Whitney at 140% normal to date. Mammoth Pass is listed at 34% of normal to date, but higher on Mammoth Mountain, the early November storm dropped closer to 4 feet of snow.
Boreal and Heavenly resorts each have one lift in operation. Other Tahoe resorts, like Squaw Valley, wait for snow. Mammoth Mountain has had the most terrain of any resort in the state open for a month.
Rainfall in the Owens Valley, according to the DWP website, ranges from 61% of normal in Bishop, to 121% in Independence. Again the numbers show the southern trend for precipitation this year.
Its still very early in the season to know if there will be a third year of drought statewide next year.