Hydrologists See Incredible Snowpack, Drought Progress Amid Latest Snowstorm

Mar 13, 2019, 6:14 PM | Updated: 6:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Many of us woke up to another snow day and more shoveling to be done. It’s easy this year to grow weary of winter by the time we get to mid-March.

Professional water watchers, however, told KSL this is the kind of winter and spring Utah desperately needs.

According to Ski Utah, Utah’s mountains have picked up four feet of snow in the last week. That’s after a tremendous February which delivered two to three times average snowfall.

“We needed this year badly,” said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

Last fall, the statewide average for Utah reservoir storage dropped to 60%.

“The water year 2018 was the driest year on record, since we’ve been keeping records,” said McInerney. “The driest.”

This winter, he said, is in the top 25% of wet years. Right now, even if Utah did not pick up any more snow, the state would finish the water year April 1 with above average snowpack.

“So, we’ve gone from incredibly dry to very wet, and very cold,” said the hydrologist. “Everything has elevated tremendously. That’s what we really wanted to see statewide: above average precipitation, above average snow, and we’ve got it right now.”

A comforting turnaround for hydrologists and water managers looking at the data today in Salt Lake City.

“We were pretty worried that if we had another dry year our water picture was going to be quite bleak,” said McInerney. “That’s not the case at all.”

Temperatures 5 to 7 degrees above average, and 200 to 300% of average snowfall in February took care of that, pushing snowpack to 130 to 140% across the state. It’s even higher in southern Utah.

“We were hoping for a really good snowpack this year, and we’re getting it,” said Troy Brosten, a hydrologist with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. “A little more would be better. But, man we’re above normal and we’ve got the potential to fill just about all the reservoirs.”

“As the snowpack has been coming, it’s been a stress reliever in a lot of ways,” said Gary Henrie, a civil engineer with the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation.

As of February 1, projections for spring runoff were about 94% of average. With plenty of snow over the last six weeks, hydrologists now expect more than 120% of average run-off.

“We were pretty concerned as the snow started falling that we were going to get a little bit of snow and it would just melt and go right into the ground.” said Henrie.

Last fall, the entire state was withering away in the midst of extreme drought. The most drought-plagued region in the country was Four Corners, and all of Utah experienced extreme drought.

“That has since been diminished dramatically due to the snowfall that we’ve got,” said McInerney. “Right now, we’re just considered abnormally dry.”

A remarkable turnaround, so far.

“We could be drought-free if our weather continues to cooperate through the end of March, April, and into the end of May.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

A Utah Highway Patrol car that was hit by a speeding car. (Credit: UHP)...
Lauren Steinbrecher

Dashcam video shows distracted driver plowing into UHP patrol car, hurting trooper

New dash camera video shows the scary moments a distracted driver slammed into a Utah Highway Patrol car on I-215 Tuesday, injuring the trooper and others. 
1 day ago
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)...
Debbie Worthen

SLC replaces fireworks with laser light displays for July holidays

Salt Lake City residents will get a laser show instead of fireworks for the Independence and Pioneer day weekends.
1 day ago
File photo of a Unified Police Department squad vehicle. (KSL TV)...
Eliza Pace

Kearns shelter in place lifted, suspect in custody

A shelter in place has been lifted after it was issued around 7 p.m. while police searched for an armed teen.
1 day ago
Follow @KSL_AlexCabrero...
Alex Cabrero

Memento of slain son stolen from car, heartbroken mom wants it back

The stuffed elephant, that she slept with every night, is the only toy of her son's she has left.
1 day ago
The McFarland family farm in Weber County is dealing with rising costs for fuel, chemicals and mate...
Mike Anderson, KSL TV

Weber County family farm fights through herbicide shortages, drought, rising costs

A shortage of chemicals found in herbicides is putting even more rising costs on the backs of Utah farmers, in an already difficult year.
1 day ago
LGBTQ teens at an Encircle activity....
Ashley Moser, KSL TV

Parents’ support key to mental health among LGBTQ+ youth, experts say

Nearly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. live with a mental health condition. In the LGBTQ+ community, that number is three times higher. Experts say family support is crucial to an adolescents’ mental health.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Hydrologists See Incredible Snowpack, Drought Progress Amid Latest Snowstorm