The skies were gray, snow was falling and it was bitterly cold when state snow survey chief Frank Gehrke made his monthly march out to a deep pillow of snow in the Sierra Nevada town of Phillips on Thursday morning.
He plodded across the white mounds, plunged his metallic pole into the powder beneath him, pulled it out and made his proclamation: 94 inches deep.
The 2016-17 winter created one of the largest snowpacks in California’s recorded history and it’s loaded with enough water to keep reservoirs and rivers swollen for months to come.
“For recreation, there’s a lot of pent-up demand for spring touring,” Gehrke told reporters and viewers watching on a social media live stream. “Clearly this is going to be a good year for it. People have to be aware that conditions are different and they can’t expect the same conditions they had a couple years ago.”
With reservoirs and rivers already full from months of rain, the addition of melting snow will likely push water over the banks in some communities and cause flooding, said David Rizzardo, chief of snow survey and water supply forecasting for the state Department of Water Resources.