April storms ease northern Nevada drought concerns

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- It wasn't northern Nevada's wettest April on record, but it came close.

Ten feet of snow fell last month at the Central Sierra Snow Lab near Donner Summit, a total surpassed only twice before, in 1948 and 1963, climate experts said.

At Tahoe City, Calif., more than 5 feet of snow during the month provided 6.27 inches of water, making it the sixth wettest April there during the past 70 years, said Gary Barbato, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

"We beat the odds," Barbato said, referring to the slim chance that April storms could put a dent in an otherwise dry winter.

The situation has improved to the point that the Truckee Meadows Water Authority probably won't have to tap emergency drought supplies this summer as originally expected, said Lori Williams, the authority's general manager.

In Reno, 0.81 of an inch of precipitation fell in April, 231 percent of normal for the month. Temperatures averaged about 45.5 degrees in Reno, 3 degrees below normal.

April produced the most significant below-average temperatures since May 1998.

On April 1, the snowpack in the Truckee River Basin was 83 percent of normal for the date. Steady snowfall and cool temperatures that prevented snow from melting had Wednesday's snowpack at 122 percent of what normally would be expected for April 30.

Lake Tahoe's snowpack Wednesday was 110 percent of normal for the date, up from 57 percent on April 1.

The Carson River Basin snowpack was 119 percent of average for the date, up from 80 percent at the start of the month.

"It's looking a whole lot better. It's really kind of unbelievable," Carson Valley rancher Arnold Settelmeyer said.

The enhanced snowpack should improve significantly what earlier looked to be a dismal irrigation season for agriculture, Settelmeyer said. And while cool temperatures retarded hay growth in April, that situation should turn around with warming weather in May, he said.

April's storms reversed a disappointing season for the region. After heavy snowfall in December, January, February and March all produced below-average precipitation.

Still, after three dry years in a row, area reservoirs have a long ways to go to catch up. Lake Tahoe on Wednesday remained nearly 5 feet below maximum capacity, and melting snow this summer is expected to fill only a small portion of that gap.


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