By Dale Knutsen
Special to Plumas News
Like most of the region, the Lake Almanor basin received an exceptional amount of snow during December. The west shore area (a.k.a. “Little Siberia”) registered 82 inches of snowfall during the month. That’s more than three times the monthly average. Much of that snow was relatively light and dry, making life a little easier on those who needed to relocate the stuff from driveways and such. Our season total snowfall at the end of December was 84.5 inches, a whopping 228 percent of the long-term average at this point.
The snowpack represents our water “savings account,” the stored water that will be withdrawn from savings during the spring runoff. It is therefore important for water managers to know the water content of that snow, along with the rainfall that came before and during winter. December in the mountains was also a very good month for water content. PG&E’s weather monitoring site at Prattville registered a large amount of water during December, some 11.37 inches of total precipitation. That brings our July-June season total to 22.23 inches, or 186 percent of the long-term average.
Both the heavy snowfall and substantial total precipitation figures give hope that we might be done with our recent drought period. The graph below shows the July through December totals for the past dozen years, very clearly pointing out our current encouraging trend. However, as helpful as it may be to get an early wet start, we still have another six months to go before we tally up our season total. And our history shows that a big start may or may not be an indicator of a truly wet year. For example, the big start in 2012 ended with an annual total precipitation that was just under average. So we’ll wait until at least late February to declare precipitation victory.
December temperatures were relatively close to average for the month. Our average morning low was 19.2 degrees, which is 1.5 degrees colder than the norm, while our average high was 43.8 degrees, 1.7 degrees warmer than the long-term figure. The extreme high for the month was 64 degrees on December 1st. The extreme low was 0 degrees on the morning of the 17th.
Historically, the next three months are wet months, bringing us about 48 percent of our annual precipitation. But each year is different and the distribution of rain and snowfall varies widely. We’ll just need to be patient and see what nature sends our way.