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Torrential rain in California caused flooding but offered a respite from the drought

Torrential rain in California caused flooding but offered a respite from the drought

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Carla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources, the agency that manages the Golden State’s most precious resource, said California must walk a fine line during intense winter storms. For one thing, the state desperately needs winter rain and snow to replenish water supplies ahead of the annual dry spell that often runs from spring to fall.

But climate change has also increased extreme weather events in the West, and long bouts of heavy rain can cause devastating floods or mudslides in areas that have recently burned. Warm storms, in particular, could melt snow prematurely and send water rushing down mountains and into already oversaturated cities.

“It’s kind of a Goldilocks situation,” Ms. Nemeth said. “We are cautiously optimistic.”

On California’s ski slopes, unusually heavy snowfall was a welcome gift. Mammoth Mountain, a resort on the border of Yosemite National Park, is expected to see several feet of snow Saturday, with more snowfall expected through mid-January, said Lauren Burke, the resort’s director of communications.

The resort has already benefited from heavy snowfall this winter, including 10 to 15 feet of snow in the past month alone, Ms. Burke said. By noon Saturday, the resort recorded 90 to 131 inches of snow at its base depth, among the deepest in the country, according to On the snowwhich tracks snowpack at resorts across the country.

“The snowpack is holding up really well, even with this warmer, wet, heavy snow,” Ms Burke said. “It just greases the mountain and builds a really deep foundation.”

The Sierra Nevada region has accumulated significant snowpack, including in the southern Sierra, nearly 200 percent of the average snow water equivalent typically recorded for this time of year, according to data from California Department of Water Resources.

While warning of the risk of flooding, experts say the storms are on track to largely benefit the state. This is partly because the water levels of the great rivers and reservoirs of the West are already much lower than normal, so it will take an extraordinary amount of rain in a short period of time to refill them; the worst floods occur when major waterways and reservoirs overflow their banks in populated areas.


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