As predicted the storm over the weekend was a big one, but how does this recent round of storms measure up to the past? Fresh in many minds here in the Eastern Sierra is the New Year’s storms two years ago.
Those storms started up on New Year’s Eve 2005 and ran through the third of January bringing heavy snows down to the floor of the Owens Valley. Power outages left many in the dark for days, 395 shut down, and at least one tragic death can be attributed to those past storms.
Now that the numbers are starting to come in, it looks like the 05/06 storm brought more precipitation but this first big one of 2008 was unusual for the rate the snow and rain fell. The 05/06 storm was spread out over four days, but as Sierra Waves Forecast Specialist Dennis Mattinson explained, the lion’s share, of the rain and snow in the recent storms came in one day.
Sue Burak, forecaster for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, reports that on Friday of last week precipitation rates reached a third of an inch per hour in places. She says that this is an extremely high and rare number for precipitation.
Burak explained that in Aspendell, in the Bishop Creek Drainage, the 05/06 storm brought in 44″ of snow from Dec 31 to Jan 3 with 5 ” of water. That series of storms had one big night that dropped 4 of water, but the 2008 storm brought more water to Aspendell in a shorter period of time. Burak reports that last Friday, 51 of snow fell on the Bishop Creek Drainage over 15 hours between 9:00 am and midnight. The water content was greater this year as well, with 5.4 of water in the snow.
While the 05/06 storm brought two feet of snow to the Owens Valley, this time the precipitation fell mostly as rain at the lower elevations, most of which came on Friday. Mattinson reports that between 10 in the morning Friday and when the first round started to die down close to one in the morning, Saturday, between 2.5 and 3.5 inches of rain fell in the Owens Valley. At his house in the Alabama Hills, Mattinson reports that 3 of rain fell on Friday and early Saturday morning. Another two tenths fell during the second round that came in Saturday night. Of a total of a bout 4 for Bishop, 3.48 of rain fell just on Friday.
At Mammoth Mountain the 05/06 storms dropped 89.5 inches of snow over four days. The ski area reports the latest storm total at 65, with most of the snow coming in two days. 4 fell Thursday night, 36 came in Friday, and 25 of snow stacked up on Saturday. With the latest round of snow Tuesday, the Ski Area is calling the storm total at 77.
As for trouble, the Eastern Sierra weathered this latest round with relatively few major problems. With government officials, emergency crews, and residents thinking about that 05/06 storm before this one came in perhaps we were better prepared this time around. The fact that this recent storm just wasn’t so bad surely helped as well.