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Frank Gehrke, right, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, and Vince White, a hydrographer with Southern California Edison, weigh a sample of snow to calculate the water content and depth of the lingering huge snowpack at Dana Meadows, near the Tioga Pass area of the Eastern Sierra. The Department of Water Resources normally has stopped taking snowpack measurements this time of year. Their measurements and snow pillow sensors determine how water reservoirs manage their water content.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Workers remove snow from the roof of the Tioga Pass Resort, not far from the entrance to Yosemite National Park. The first week of June in California, snow depths of 7 feet or more were not uncommon at high elevations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Frank Gehrke, left, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, watches as Vince White, a hydrographer with Southern California Edison, pushes a long pole into the snowpack to record the snow depth and then weigh the snow core for water content. From that, hydrologists can calculate the volume of melt and runoff that fill the state’s reservoirs and aqueducts.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

The Tioga Pass Resort sign is nearly buried in snow. This year’s early spring snowpack in the Sierra was the fifth-largest in the last 60 years. A cool, cloudy May delayed its melt, and this month has been similar thus far — at some upper elevations, more snow has fallen.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, takes notes after weighing a sample of snow. He has been taking such surveys for 30 years, 24 of them for the state.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Snow surrounds the closed Tioga Pass Entrance Station, elevation 9,943 feet. Tioga Pass serves as the eastern entry point for Yosemite National Park and is the highest highway pass in California and in the Sierra Nevada. The pass is subject to winter closure because of high snowfall.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

On a recent sunny morning, Frank Gehrke, right, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, and Vince White, a hydrographer with Southern California Edison, ski over the snowpack at Dana Meadows in Yosemite National Park. Their measurements determined that the snowpack had enough water to form a 3-foot-deep lake.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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From the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades to the northern Rockies, much of the West’s high country remains buried under a thick snowpack that is filling reservoirs and engaging dam operators in a nerve-wracking balancing act as they watch for temperature spikes that could turn all those scenic piles of white into raging floodwaters.

In early June, snow depths of 7 feet or more were not uncommon at high elevations in California. Gauges on Lower Lassen Peak in the Feather River drainage recorded a whopping 24 feet.

This year’s early spring snowpack in the Sierra was the fifth-largest in the last 60 years. A cool, cloudy May has delayed its melt, and so far June has been no better: at some upper elevations, there has been more snow.

The story is much the same in the Pacific Northwest and the upper Colorado River Basin, where water managers are predicting the biggest flow into Lake Powell since 1997. Lake Mead, which is fed by Powell and supplies Las Vegas and Southern California, is expected to rise 31 feet this year — enough to signal that the Colorado’s stubborn drought just may be ending. “It’s an exciting year for us, “ said Rick Clayton, who coordinates releases from Powell. “We should be in good shape after this year.”

Read Bettina Boxall’s story, “A snowpack’s potential peril”

1 Comment

  1. September 16, 2013, 9:56 pm

    nice photo gallery thanks for sharing these awesome photos. :-)

    By: EPDM

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