Snow's water content looking good

Surveyors are trudging through the mountains to find out just how much snow there is, at least at spots they can get to.

The sheer number of snowstorms and the accompanying avalanche risk are keeping the snowshoe-clad surveyors and their helicopters out of some of the most remote areas. The state Department of Water Resources still expects surveyors to submit results early next week for the monthly snow survey.

The information that has come in looks good, said Elissa Lynn, senior meteorologist for the state Department of Water Resources.

Early estimates suggest that the water content of snowfall in the central Sierra is 103 percent of normal. That's the watershed for the Tuolumne and Stanislaus rivers. The southern Sierra, which is the source of the San Joaquin River, is estimated at 124 percent of normal. The statewide average is 113 percent.

"That is very good news because last month we were at 60 percent of average (for the state)" Lynn said. "And last year at this point, we were at 40 percent of average, so this is great."

That information comes from automatic snow sensors placed throughout the Sierra and from results already submitted for some areas. Surveyors started their work as much as a week ago. They push hollow, metal tubes into the snow and then measure the weight. Then surveyors use the weight to calculate the snow's water content.

"But it has got to keep coming," Lynn said. "There are still some drought conditions in the central and southern parts of the state, and that isn't going to be eliminated yet. For that to happen, we still have to get all the way through the season at or above average.

"At this point, we're not making drought conditions any worse, but we have to see where the rest of the season goes. We still have a few months."

The Department of Water Resources surveys the snow through May.

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 578-2324.