- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The Sierra Nevada snowpack measured above average for this time of year, but it’s not enough to make a dent in California’s stubborn four-year drought, state water managers said Wednesday.

“Nobody’s declaring a victory yet, that’s for sure,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the California Department of Water Resources.

Recent storms boosted the snowpack’s statewide water content to 112 percent of normal, according to electronic readings collected by the state. More snow is expected to fall in the next few days.

This cold and wet weather comes as a sharp contrast to last winter.

On Jan. 1, the snowpack was a meager 45 percent of the state’s historical average. By April 1, it was at 5 percent of normal, marking a record low.

The snowpack is important because it contributes about 30 percent of California’s water supply when it melts and rushes through rivers and streams to fill vital reservoirs that help sustain the state during the dry months.

Despite recent rain and snowfall, major reservoirs in Northern California remain critically low. Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, is at half of its historical average, and Lake Oroville is 45 percent full.

If the Northern California snowpack is at 150 percent of normal April 1 - when it should be at its deepest - climatologists will feel more confident that drought is easing, Carlson said.

State officials on Dec. 30 plan to trudge through the snow to make the season’s first measurement by hand. By then it should be even deeper.

A cold storm Thursday is expected to dump more than a foot of snow on Tahoe with a dusting in the lower elevation foothills, said Nathan Owen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

“It’s going to be a good sign going into the new year for the Sierra snowpack,” he said.


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