Jan. 31, 2012 — Snow blowers blasting snow from driveways up and down the streets of Westwood was an unusual sight Monday morning, Jan. 23, following the first major storm of the season.
With an unusually dry winter residents have not had much need for snow removal equipment.
I read that this time last year ski resorts in the Sierras had double their usual amount of snow.
This winter the resorts are making snow in order to operate.
Snowfall was 165 percent of average the winter of 2010-11.
Early in January 2011 the snowpack measured seven feet at Echo Summit near Lake Tahoe.
This year the measurement was one-seventh of an inch.
A newspaper article dated March 30, 2011 reported that a total of 61 feet of snow had fallen in the high country by that date.
As a result, the accumulated snow from the amount that fell was incredible.
The ski patrol at Squaw Valley had to tunnel into their warming huts, according to the article.
It seemed odd to me that the weather could vary so drastically from year to year, with an abundance of snow one winter and such a meager amount the next.
However, looking into the history of snowfall in the Sierras I learned patterns are not always reliable.
The Donner Party was trapped due to a series of early storms in late October and early November the winter of 1846-47.
Apparently such heavy storms that early are rare.
Ten major storm periods the winter the Donner Party was trying to get over the mountains to Sutter’s Fort resulted in the accumulation of 15 to 20 feet of snow at Donner Lake where the majority of the pioneers in this wagon train had camped.
The highest point of the pass reportedly had accumulated a snow depth of about 25 feet of snow.
There are periods of time when record snowfalls have been recorded, and I found a few on the Internet. In the winter of 1951-52, Truckee had a depth of 37 feet of snow.
In 1889-90, a total of 66 feet of snow fell throughout the season in the Sierras. On Jan. 4, 1982, 67 inches of snow fell at Echo Summit in one day, or 5.6 feet.
That same year one snowstorm brought a total of 186.6 inches (15.6 ft.) to Donner Summit.
Reports from last winter show storms were strong in the fall, but in January there wasn’t much weather.
However, a series of heavy storms in February and March helped build the snowpack.
This news provides hope. It is still possible for more storms to hit the Sierras in the upcoming months, making mountain residents glad they purchased a snow blower.
An article dated February 2007, revealed a storm packed with moisture made its way on shore following a very dry January. I guess a persistent ridge of high pressure off the California Coast is the usual reason for dry winters.
Who knows what the rest of the year will hold? We still have February and March, in which we could possibly have snowstorms.
It would be good to get just a few more feet of snow.
The youth group at Calvary Chapel Westwood, which I help Norm Wilson lead, has invited a few youth groups from Calvary Chapel churches in Santa Cruz up for President’s Day Weekend to play in the snow.
Each fall, we go to Santa Cruz to surf and boogie board in the ocean and this year they have decided to visit us.
While the ocean is always available for play, snow is a part of those weather patterns that history shows are not predictable.
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