Greatest snow on Earth: Utah’s snowpack hits record high
Mar 24, 2023, 3:42 PM | Updated: 3:52 pm
(Chopper 5/KSL TV)
SALT LAKE CITY — Things are about as good as it can get for the Greatest Snow on Earth: Utah has set a record for its statewide snowpack, passing the previous mark set 40 years ago.
Data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service showed Utah’s statewide snowpack hit 26.1″ of snow water equivalent on Friday — besting 1983’s record of 26 inches.
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KSL.com reported Utah’s forecast calls for cooler and wetter conditions for the rest of the week. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center projections indicate a higher probability for more storm action to close out the month, as well, so the record is likely to go even higher.
As more snow moves into the state, two Utah ski resorts celebrated a huge milestone they haven’t seen in years: hitting 700 inches of snowfall in a season.
A new banner unveiled downtown Wednesday stretches 58 feet from the ground. On the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City hotel connected to the Salt Palace Convention Center on West Temple, the banner reaches the hotel’s fourth story and gives a good idea of what 700 inches means.
With the record snowpack, several Utah resorts announced they will be extending their seasons. Memorial Day weekend skiing is a possibility, and no resorts have ruled out 4th of July snow events.
However, how much more snow Utah gets or how quickly it warms up can impact those plans — as well as any spring flooding.
Residents and emergency preparedness managers in northern and southern Utah are preparing for potential flooding with sandbags, clearing debris and watching river and creek levels as that snowpack makes its way to the state’s reservoirs and lakes.
“There’s the potential for dozens of these kinds of snags to be along the various creeks across the county,” said Salt Lake County Emergency Management director Clint Mecham. “That’s why engineering and flood control are as aggressively as possible trying to get out and get these things cleared out.”
What kind of dent does this make in the drought?
Jordan Clayton, snow survey supervisor for Utah, said runoff will likely fill Utah’s small and medium-sized reservoirs, and most basins will have above-average surface water supplies this summer.
The state is still recovering from a cumulative precipitation deficit, and it would take another winter like this one to wipe that out. On the drought monitor, Utah is no longer in exceptional drought, and only 1% of the state is still in extreme drought.
“We’re not out of the drought. But we’re not seeing that phenomenally terrible drought condition that we had a couple of years ago across the state,” Clayton said.
Peak snowpack still depends on the weather. Clayton said the peak may occur in mid-April rather than early April due to the cool temperatures and additional snowfall.
Excluding Lake Powell & Flaming Gorge, the Utah Division of Water Resources said Utah’s reservoirs were at 55% capacity as of Thursday. Lake Powell is at 22% capacity, down from 25% at this time last year. Flaming Gorge sits at 66% capacity, down from 77% last March.