Blue skies and crunchy, bare fields greeted Frank Gehrke, chief of California’s Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, in his final snow survey of the year Thursday at Phillips Station. It’s shaping up to be the fourth to sixth worst year on record in terms of snowfall with the Sierra snowpack at just 18 percent of average, he said.
April wasn’t much help to the water picture on the Nevada side of the Sierra either.
According to precipitation figures released Thursday, Ebbetts Pass received 70 percent of average moisture for the month, with 3.2 inches. That brought the site at the top of the East Fork of the Carson River up to 57 percent for this time of year.
With most of the wettest portion of the water year over, no place in the Carson River Basin saw average precipitation during April, putting a pin in what has been a third dry winter.
Minden received only two-thirds of its average 7.18 inches during the year so far. April saw only .08 inches fall in the Douglas County seat, far below its .49 inch average.
So far the entire basin is at just below half average moisture for the water year, which began on Oct. 1.
California transportation officials said light snowpack this season allowed them to open Tioga Road through Yosemite National Park on Friday.
“Due to a light snowpack this past winter, approximately 30 percent of normal, the Tioga Road was cleared of snow early into the season,” a spokesman said. “Snow and icy conditions may still exist on hiking trails at the higher elevations. Visitors are urged to be prepared for snowy conditions and possible treacherous stream crossings while hiking the backcountry in the early season.”
The road is open so early, none of the park’s amenities are open yet. That includes all campgrounds and commercial services, including the gas station, store and village grill.
Vault toilets are available in several locations along the road.