January key water month in drought picture | RecordCourier.com

January key water month in drought picture

Jobs Peak shines in the alpen glow of a red dawn on Thursday morning.
Kurt Hildebrand |

Over the last 110 years in Minden, January has averaged the wettest month of the year at 1.56 inches.

For Carson Valley ranchers, the snowpack in the Sierra that feeds the Carson River is the main reservoir for summer irrigation.

But after four years of drought, increased precipitation so far this year has been good news.

As of Thursday, the snowpack in the Sierra above the Carson River was running a few points above average at 104 percent, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“This is an encouraging start after four dry winters, but with several more months of the snow accumulation season remaining, a wide variety of outcomes is still possible,” forecasters said in a report issued earlier this week.

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Director Joanne S. Marchetta celebrated the strong early snowpack.

“The first snowy winter in years is boosting Lake Tahoe’s economy, bringing tourists to our ski resorts and hotels,” she said. “A strong storm that hit the Sierra several weeks ago dropped more than 4 billion gallons of water into Lake Tahoe, quickly raising the Lake’s level by 2 inches. The Lake is still more than a foot below its natural rim, but the storm showed how our Lake and parched forests stand to benefit from this return of winter weather.”

However, even with a good first three months, only 40 percent of the annual precipitation has fallen so far this water year, and there’s a long ways to go to make up for the last four winters.

“An average to above average year would be greatly beneficial to water supply conditions, but it will take an exceptional year, or more likely, more than one year to return the area to pre-drought conditions,” according to the drought report.

Forecasters raised the specter of the 2012-2013 water year, when the first three months contributed to the snowpack only to have the tap turn off in January 2013 and stay off for the entire year.

“While the current snowpack already exceeds last year’s peak in each basin and 2014 in many, 2013 had a similarly strong early snowpack only to dry out later in the winter,” according to the report.

Carson Valley remains in an exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report issued Thursday

While the drought extends over less of Nevada, it has actually expanded to include more of Douglas County this year.

The National Weather Service 8-14-day outlook issued on Wednesday is forecasting above average precipitation from a series of storms expected to arrive over the next week.

A storm will arrive late tonight and early Saturday that could bring an increasing chance of rain.

A wind advisory that went into effect on Thursday night is expected to continue early this morning.

Winds of 20-30 mph, gusting to 55 mph are expected through today. On Wednesday, a 71 mph wind gust was recorded in Sheridan.

Weather was blamed for a three-hour power outage that affected nearly 1,600 NV Energy customers at Lake Tahoe.