Snowpack declines with arrival of summer

The east and west forks of the Carson River join upstream of Genoa Lane on Tuesday.

The east and west forks of the Carson River join upstream of Genoa Lane on Tuesday.

Nearly four-fifths of the record snowpack at Ebbetts Pass has melted off since May 10 when it peaked at 77.6 inches.

As of Thursday morning, there are still 15.9 inches of water locked in the 2 feet of snow, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service snow telemetry. Last year, the snowpack was essentially gone by May 16.

Ebbetts feeds the East Fork of the Carson River which has been running high, but steady for the last two months. With no major storage upstream, the snowpack is effectively the only reservoir upstream from Carson Valley.

According to the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, the East Fork near Horseshoe Bend crested at 13.11 feet 3:05 a.m. Monday. That’s just over an inch higher than the 13-foot action stage and represents 3,690 cubic feet per second.

The last few days of cooler weather at the beginning of summer slowed down the snow melt swelling the river.

Minden reported a low temperature of 31 degrees on June 20 breaking a record set in 1995. The low for the first day of summer was 33 degrees, only 3 degrees short of the record set in 1908.

The gauge at Horseshoe Bend recorded the river was down to 12.05 feet on Thursday morning.

There’s only 2 inches of snow left at Carson Pass at the top of the West Fork on Thursday morning, down from 73 inches on May 21. The last snow-water equivalent reading was 1.7 inches on June 22, down from a peak of 68.3 inches on April 7.

For the first time in weeks, the West Fork dropped below the 12.5-foot action stage on Wednesday morning down to 12.45 feet on Thursday.

While recording similar gauge heights, the West Fork carries just 894 cubic feet per second, or only a quarter of the East Fork.

A gauge just downstream from the Genoa Lane bridge, near where the two forks meet indicated 11.24 feet on Thursday morning, down more than 2 feet from Monday night’s crest of 13.78 feet. That gauge indicated a winter crest of 15.68 feet on New Year’s Day.


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