Storm helps a bit |

Storm helps a bit

by Joyce Hollister

Though the last winter storm has helped the summer water outlook somewhat, it was not enough to take us up to average for the month.

So say Carson River Watermaster Julian Larrouy and State Climatologist John James.

At the higher elevations, rain added water to the snow, Larrouy said, and increased its water content. At lower elevations, rain melted some of the snow, but luckily there wasn’t a lot of runoff.

“The river didn’t rise very much,” Larrouy said. “There wasn’t any significant change in the flows. Certainly, some of the water from 5,500-6,500 feet came down, but it wasn’t enough to hurt us.”

As of yesterday, Larrouy reported, the East Carson River watershed snow water content is at 89 percent of average. This number is calculated by combining the percentages of readings from three elevations and dividing by three.

The reading at the highest elevation is 105 percent, the mid-elevation is at 77 percent and the lower elevation is at 54 percent.

Nearly an inch of rain fell in Centerville over the weekend.

Last year at this date, the water content of the snow at the measuring site at Ebbetts Pass was at 152 percent of average, and on Tuesday it stood at 38.8 percent, or 20.6 inches of water.

Of course, last year the New Year’s flood devastated Carson Valley.

“Barring an extremely dry February and March,” Larrouy said, “we should have close to a normal year. Hopefully, we’ll have some storms to augment what we have now.”

James said that though we’re not quite back to normal, “we’ve had a dramatic change. But remember, January is our wettest month. Every day we go without precipitation, we drop back to where we were before.

“And it’s going to be a dry week. The numbers will probably drop 5 or 10 percent.”

James said El Nino, the weather phenomenon that has been blamed for droughts in some parts of the world and floods in others, is an unknown factor in Nevada.

“We were flooded last year,” he said, “and last year was not an El Nino. Today, we’re slightly normal. East of the Sierra Nevada, we’re not in a good position to reflect El Nino.”

The “back-to-back” winters of the last three years were unusually wet, a circumstance not shown in the history of water records that date back 125 years, James said.

“Putting four together would be like taking one quarter and hitting Megabucks,” he said. “The way it looks right now, I’d guess we’ll end up below normal.”

All is not gloom on the water front, however.

“With those last three years,” James said, “we’re in great shape even if we have a real dry year.”

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