Is the drought over yet?

A snowy Carson Range stretches south from Alpine View.

A snowy Carson Range stretches south from Alpine View.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

It has been three decades since 41.3 inches of snow fell in Minden, making it the second biggest January snow month on record.

That year doesn’t show up on the National Weather Service’s online data for the Douglas County seat because there are a week of missing snowfall readings toward the end of the month.

Most of the snow that year fell Jan. 5-6 with 21.5 inches. Another 19.8 inches fell by Jan. 17, 1993, to come close to setting the record for snowfall.

That January was remarkable, but it wasn’t enough to end the drought that dried up Washoe Lake.

The following February only saw 2.7 inches of snow with 1.41 inches of precipitation, and March another 1.4 inches. All that snow in the first quarter of the month only ended up leaving 5.91 inches of moisture in Minden, followed by an exceedingly dry April.

Up to and including the start of the 1992-93 water year, there had been a running tally of drought years, that hit seven before the big storm of January 1993.

The standing assignment in The Record-Courier newsroom whenever there was a significant storm was to call Nevada Climatologist John James and ask him, “Is the drought over, yet?”

“What’s over is the string of dry years,” he replied in a Feb. 28, 1993, article “We have definitely broken the trend.”

James other famous quote likened the drought to credit card debt.

“You don’t get out of five years of debt in one payment,” he said.

That was the refrain on Monday at the California Nevada January 2023 Drought & Climate Outlook.

That January 30 years ago brought with it a lot of snow, but nine atmospheric rivers over the course of less than a month brought a record level of precipitation to Minden this month.

James’ successor, Steph McAfee, summed it up.

“From a drought perspective, things are clearly better than they were,” she said. “But even one great winter won’t fix it entirely. In some ways we’re on a good path and in some ways we have some significant changes to make.”


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