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Dry Start To Winter Leaves Sierra Without Snow

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California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Chief of Cooperative Snow Survey Frank Gehrke (L) weighs a snow sample while assisted by Kasey Schimke, DWR Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs January 29, 2010 near Meyers, California. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Chief of Cooperative Snow Survey Frank Gehrke (L) weighs a snow sample while assisted by Kasey Schimke, DWR Assistant Director for Legislative Affairs January 29, 2010 near Meyers, California. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

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MEYERS, El Dorado County (KCBS) – A dry start to winter is making it tough for state water engineers to find snow.

The state Department of Water Resources conducted its first snow survey of the season Tuesday but found little snow to measure.  Officials reported the snowpack water content throughout the Sierra at 19 percent of the average for early January.

”Half of the state’s rainfall and snow typically comes in December, January and February,” said California Department of Water Resources Chief Deputy Director Sue Sims. “So when we have virtually nothing in December it’s going to be very tough to make that up.”

Water managers are not panicking yet, however. Director Mark Cowin said most of the storm season is still to come and reservoirs remain high after last year’s heavy rain and snow.

State water officials estimate they will deliver 60 percent of the amount requested by contractors this year, largely due to current reservoir levels.

In addition to electronic readings, the state conducts manual snow surveys the first of each month between January and May.

KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:

Meanwhile, Daniel Berlant of CalFire said that much of the grass and brush has been dry, and that’s a concern if conditions remain the same.

”As we go into 2012 we’re going to watch the weather very closely because all it takes in a wind event to dry the conditions back out and bring that humidity down, and that fire danger will go back up,” said Berlant.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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