Rainfall totals also hit 200% of yearly average in Owens Valley
By Jon Klusmire Register Correspondent
Alberta Newspaper Group
Grab the record book and pencil in 2022-23 at the top of the list for the all-time highest Eastern Sierra snowpack. As of March 14, the snowpack hit a stunning 275% of average to date and an equally massive 256% of April 1 average when runoff is calculated. The snowpack is holding about 59 inches of water content, which easily tops the 2017 record of just a bit more than 50 inches of water content. The reason the record needs to be put in the book with a pencil is this extraordinary winter isn’t over. The latest snowpack readings do not include snowfall from this week’s storms and the probably addition of more snow during the rest of March. The rainfall totals are just as eye-popping, with totals hitting more than 200% of yearly averages in Owens Valley communities. For example, Bishop has received about 13 inches of rain since Oct. 1, with Big Pine recording 21 inches of rain. The latest snowpack readings by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power put this year’s snowpack well above the previous three biggest snow years: In 1969 the snowpack hit 216% of average (but LADWP feels the data isn’t as solid as in later years, so it does not consider 1969 the record year); in 2017, the year LADWP calls the wettest year on record, the snowpack hit 202% of average; in 1983, the snowpack peaked at 194% of average, according to LADWP officials at the March Inyo-LA Standing Committee meeting. Snowpack data The data showing the LADWP’s current precipitation conditions for the Eastern Sierra shows this year’s snowpack shooting up quickly after atmospheric river storms in January. A brief lull came in February, but the recent March storms featuring heavy, wet snow pushed the snowpack well past 2107 and into the record books. The snowpack data comes from in-person snow surveys conducted by LADWP personnel and from the “weighted average” of automated snow pillows. The snowpack and water content readings across the Eastern Sierra are as follows: • Gem Pass: 203% of normal to date; 184% of April 1 average, with 63 inches of water content. • Mammoth Pass: 227% of normal to date; 204% of April 1 average, with 87 inches of water. • Rock Creek: 301% of normal to date; 291% of April 1 average, with 38 inches of water. • Sawmill: 268% of normal to date; 244% of April 1 average, with 46 inches of water. • Big Pine Creek: 326% of normal to date; 304% of April 1 average, with 53 inches of water. • Cottonwood Lakes: 291% of normal to date; 272% of April 1 average, with 33 inches of water. rainfall totals Numerous rainstorms have hit the Eastern Sierra since the “rain year” began on Oct. 1. Those storms have nearly doubled the average yearly rainfall totals in Inyo and Mono counties. Based on LADWP data, the rainfall totals are as follows: • Cain Ranch: 261% of normal to date; 176% of Sept. 30 average, with 18 inches of rain. • Long Valley: 271% of normal to date; 184% of Sept. 30 average, with 18 inches of rain. • Bishop: 285% of normal to date; 211% of Sept. 30 average, with 13 inches of rain. • Big Pine: 298% of normal to date; 230% of Sept. 30 average, with 21 inches of rain. • Independence: 274% of normal to date; 209% Sept. 30 average, with 11 inches of rain. • South Haiwee: 254% of normal to date; 177% of Sept. 30 average, with 12 inches of rain. Additional snowpack readings will be taken weekly, with the final snow survey of the season taking place around April 1. After that reading, LADWP will make its runoff estimates for 2023.