Huge Snowstorm Gives Utah ‘Good Shot’ To Recharge Reservoirs
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Just a week into the month, Utah’s mountains have accumulated three to four times the average precipitation, due in large part to the monster storm that pummeled the area.
The snowfall over the last few days has piled up in our driveways, snarled traffic, and made a big difference for the water reserves.
“We’ve had incredible storm activity,” said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
Since Sunday, the mountain areas have collected 40 to 70 inches of new snow.
“The (precipitation) amounts, when you compare them to average, have been 300 to 400 percent (higher) for the month of February,” said McInerney. “Granted, it’s a short sample size, but in that period it’s been an awesome system, and this is what we’ve been hoping for.”
McInerney said the latest storm will make a big difference for our water reserves.
After the storm, the snowpack across Utah was about twice as deep as last year, when meteorologists said too few storms contributed. In Northern Utah, snowpack was at 120 to 130 percent of average. In the Virgin River Basin in southwestern Utah, it was as high as 170 percent.
“The farther south you go, the better it gets,” said McInerney.
Much of the snow that fell early in the storm was very dense and wet, which matters when the snow melts.
“These are good water producers,” McInerney said. “We’ve had an inch or two of water with each one of these systems coming through, and it’s adding up.”
Unfortunately, McInerney said, the snowpack sits on dry soils after two years of drought. Much of the runoff will soak into the soil this spring before making it to the reservoirs.
“Our reservoirs have been depleted pretty significantly,” said McInerney.
If the snow continues to pile up and we have a cold, wet spring, he said, the runoff forecast will improve.
“I think we all get excited when we see this amount of snow, but for the most part it’s just a little bit above average,” he said.
The rest of February and March will determine how much water ends up in our reservoirs. If the snow keeps coming, and Utah sees average to above average runoff, the hydrologist said, there may be enough to recharge many reservoirs in Utah.
“We have a pretty good shot, at least right now, of putting a pretty good dent in the reservoirs,” said McInerney.
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