Snowpack increases; wet storms forecast

Tundra Swans fly over the Truckee River at Pyramid Lake January 1, 2017.

2017 opened to cold temperatures followed by rain and today the first significant snow in Reno this winter. Since the beginning of the stormy weather here in the central Sierra surrounding Lake Tahoe, snowpack has gone from well below the 1981-2010 average to now above that 30 year average. Total precipitation, however, continues above average since October with at least one station around Tahoe currently reporting  greater than 170% of average.

The National Weather Service is forecasting more rain for lower elevations and snow in higher areas of the Sierra. “Heavy rain” is in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday for Reno.

Reno Forecast for Jan 7 to 9, 2017

Reno Forecast for Jan 7 to 9, 2017

Currently there are concerns about flooding on the Truckee River through the Truckee Meadows although flooding is expected to be only moderate perhaps similar to that experienced in 2005. Hopefully, damages will be minimal. While the community completed a flood management project proposal prior to 2005, it has still not been implemented in the Truckee Meadows.

The impact of heavy mountain snow and rain in lower elevations increases the likelihood that the Truckee River may see moderate flooding all the way to Pyramid Lake. Such an event should have a significant positive effect on the river environment by helping to restore meanders and provide new or rearranged gravel bars for seedlings of cottonwood, willow, and alder trees to become established. Areas that have been restored by the Nature Conservancy downstream of the Truckee Meadows using federal funding (think – Lockwood to the McCarran Ranch) could see even more benefits from high water that spills onto the restored flood plain.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it helps get the Truckee River up to and beyond its long term average flow for 2017. [Typically, the western water year is measured from October 1 to September 30; so the first full month of fall kicks off the water year.]

So here’s where we are today (January 5, 2017) with Lake Tahoe water level, Truckee River flows at 3 locations (taken early morning), and snowpack measurements and annual precipitation at 2 locations.  We’ll look again after the approaching storm is over next week.  [CFS stands for cubic feet per second and the percent of average is compared to the 30 year period from 1981-2010. “Snow water equivalent” measures the amount of water in a column of snow. “Total precipitation” is all rain and water content of snowfall, etc.]

Lake Tahoe water elevation

6223.68

8.2″ above rim

Truckee River Flow at Reno (changes daily)

722 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Tracy (changes daily)

1,480 CFS

Truckee River Flow at Pyramid Lake

1,360 CFS

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

13.3 inches

112% ave

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Snowpack depth

72 inches

Ward Creek site (848) at 6745 ft: Total precipitation

48.4 inches

175% ave

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snow water equivalent in snowpack

22.6 inches

154% ave

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Snowpack depth

103 inches

Mt Rose Ski Area at 8801 ft: Total precipitation

29.7 inches

143% ave

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

The Truckee River meanders just before entering Pyramid Lake on January 1, 2017.

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS)

Truckee River at Rock Park in Sparks (flow is around 1,100 CFS) on January 4, 2017.

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This entry was posted in Flood Project, Keep it flowing, River Restoration on by .

About Dennis Ghiglieri

My concern for the Truckee River grew over the years. It started with picking up trash and supporting better water quality. I helped create the "living river"plan with other citizens on the Community Flood Coalition; a plan to reduce flood impacts to infrastructure through river restoration and protection of the floodplain. I understand how critical the Truckee River is to the environment – and economy – of our entire region. I'm hoping that through these pages we can all understand our connection to the Truckee River and why we need to protect it.

One thought on “Snowpack increases; wet storms forecast

  1. Dennis Ghiglieri Post author

    As of January 6 at 6 pm, Rain beginning Saturday night (1/7/17) in Reno and the lower elevations of the Sierra is still forecast by the National Weather Service. There are plans in place for sand bagging for areas prone to flooding the the Truckee Meadows. Check out the Truckee Meadows Flood Management Authority website: http://www.truckeeflood.us – Dennis

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