Late Winter Storms Spare California From Drought Pain, for Now

The Sierra Nevada in California was so bereft of snow in December that skiers and farmers alike worried that a disappointing winter was sure to give way to a drought-ridden spring and summer.

Then came a deluge in subsequent months, enough to bring the state back to a normal snowfall level and then some, state leaders announced on Tuesday during the most crucial snow measurement of the year. The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada on Tuesday stood at 110 percent of average for early April, an encouraging sign that the state would have plenty of water — at least, in the months ahead.

“Average is awesome,” Karla Nemeth, director of the state’s Department of Water Resources, said from a field blanketed in white and ringed by evergreen trees near the headwaters of the south fork of the American River near Lake Tahoe.

The store of snow sitting atop the Sierra Nevada, the state’s biggest mountain range, is by far the largest and most important reservoir in California. In the dry months to come, the snow will melt and course downhill, replenishing scarce water supplies.

For the second straight year, Californians navigated flood watches and blizzard warnings in February and March, as a string of big storms caused mudslides and snarled traffic, particularly in Southern California. This past weekend, a storm once again caused the collapse of a section of Highway 1 in the Big Sur area.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom warned residents not to grow too comfortable with heavy precipitation and pointed to the month-to-month swings as indicative of how California’s weather patterns had become ever more erratic.

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