Two snows and rains within eight days of each other offers hope to Northern Californians who have been suffering through a number of years of drought.
Of course, to make a real impact on the drought, they will need somewhere around 30 feet of snow up in the Sierras. Here are some of the historic figures for the Sierras along highway 50 and I-80:
- 1 day snowfall: 67 inches (5.6 ft.) at Echo Summit, Jan 4, 1982 (2nd in US)
- Single storm snowfall: 186.6 inches (15.6 ft.) at Donner Summit, 1982 (2nd in US)
- 1 month snowfall: 390 inches (32.5 ft.) at Tamarack, Jan. 1991 (US record)
- Total winter snowfall: 884 inches (73.7 ft.) Tamarack, 1906-07
- Greatest snow depth: 451 inches (37.6 ft.) at Tamarack, Mar. 11, 1911 (US record)
- Highest average March snow depth: 108 inches (9 ft.) at Echo Summit
Not only did we have rain and wind today down in the valley, but south of Sacramento there was even a Tornado Warning, although no report of a tornado hitting the ground or any damage.
Seeing pictures like the one above reminds me of the many years spent in Arkansas!
Above are recent pictures of Folsom Lake (left) and Lake Oroville (right), both at or near record lows. Water should be covering most of the dirt areas behind the dam on the left, and in the entire picture on the right. Oroville feeds the Sacramento River (as does Shasta Lake much further north), and Folsom feeds the American River which merges with the Sacramento River in Sacramento. River levels are not as low because they need to be at levels compatible for the Salmon, Shad, Striper and Sturgeon runs (although technically I don’t think the Sturgeon don’t have runs).
Above is a picture of Folsom Dam with all gates open, and the lake at flood stage.
Above is a picture of the Tower Bridge, which spans the Sacramento River between Sacramento and West Sacramento…you can see it in the the TV show “The Mentalist” in many episodes.
Most of Sacramento is in a flood zone…much like New Orleans. The American and Sacramento rivers meet in Sacramento near downtown. Earthen Levees surround the city along these rivers. Sacramento has the second-highest flood risk of any major U.S. urban area. If a levee breaks, some residents could have as little as 20 minutes to flee. During times of drought, and frankly during most years, this is not a thought to most of the people who live here…until there “one of those winters”…a winter in which the dams are near capacity or are being kept low to handle the high snow pack in the mountains.
When I lived in Sacramento for 31 years, I saw the river levees just feet from overflowing. Two of these times I lived just a city block or two away from the levee. At times like that, you also worry about levee breaks, something that has not happened in Sacramento for many many years now…but it has happened further up north in places like Yuba City, or further down the river in the Delta. So far Sacramento has been saved due in part to the Yolo Bypass (above) which floods the west side of the river as the river reaches certain heights.
So we know that the lakes will once again fill, the rivers will continue to flow, and one of these days they will be talking about flooding again. That is the way of life in Sacramento. Thank goodness that while Sacramento is at a mere 13 feet in elevation, Citrus Heights is at 167 feet…so mom and dad and sisters are all safe…but other family live in the lower ground, so we always worry when the water starts reaching the top of the levees. But for now…”rain rain don’t go away, we need the water for future days.”