Snowpack nearly double normal levels after 5 years of historic drought
PHILLIPS STATION, Calif. — Melting of this year’s massive Sierra Nevada snowpack will cause California rivers to surge and possibly overflow their banks well into the summer this year, officials said Monday.
Among the first to be affected will be the Merced River running through Yosemite National Park, which is expected to hit flood stage by mid-week with waters rising a foot above its banks, forecasters warned.
Brown ends drought state of emergency in most of California Large amounts of water are being released from reservoirs downstream from the Sierra Nevada to lower their levels in anticipation of the heavier-than-normal melt off of snowpack, which is nearly double its normal size.
People who flock to the Tuolumne River for recreation should be prepared for rapid and dangerous river water, said Calvin Curtis of the Turlock Irrigation District.
It’s going to be colder than it has been," he said.
The heavy snowpack today blanketing the 400-mile (644-kilometer) long Sierra Nevada stands in contrast to two years ago when barely any measureable snow remained at this time of year amid California’s drought, state water managers said.
RELATED: Conservation groups concerned over easing of water restrictions The California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program on Monday measured that snowpack contains nearly twice the amount of water typically found in the snow at this time of year.
While the heavy snow and its high water content will help prevent water shortages that California residents endured over the last several years, the tough winter was cruel to mountain wildlife – killing off bighorn sheep and lengthening hibernation periods for bears.
During California’s drought, the iconic Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep moved from lower elevations higher up into the mountains in search of food, said Jason Holley, a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The snowdrifts have also kept many bears hibernating in the remote wilderness inside their dens one month longer than normal because food is still scarce, Holley said.