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Wishing for rain
by Andrea Tyrell
Feb 03, 2014 | 761 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
According to the Drought Monitor, precipitation in Washoe County has been less than normal. Northwestern Nevada was labeled a Level D3/ extreme drought zone.
According to the Drought Monitor, precipitation in Washoe County has been less than normal. Northwestern Nevada was labeled a Level D3/ extreme drought zone.
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Recent dustings of snow have made a few morning commutes a little icy, but they have quickly melted away, leaving people wondering when the next snowfall will come.

"Sunday's winter storm system collected around the California Coast. Precipitation was just minimal, just enough to coat the Valley floor," said Scott McGuire, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center. "It wasn't anything to help relieve the drought-like conditions. Lake Tahoe received one to two inches but there was nothing significant here but a light dusting."

The forecast for the upcoming weekend predicts some snow. Meteorologists are hoping to see more than this past weekend's scattering.

"There is a chance for another storm this weekend," McGuire said. "Things are looking fairly active but all that can also change. It really depends on how far south the system will drop. It's really 50/50 right now. We're keeping our fingers crossed. We'll take anything that we can get. Hopefully, we'll get back-to-back storms."

The National Weather Service (NWS) has been monitoring local precipitation levels, comparing levels to the those of years past. The NWS says the current levels are at an all-time low. The last two years have been the driest Nevada has seen in more than 20 years.

"So far the Truckee River Basin's January report states that we're at 39 percent of average levels," said McGuire.

Mountain snowpack in the Sierras is at 30 percent of average levels.

On Jan. 15, the United States Department of Agriculture labeled Washoe County as a primary natural disaster area due to the drought, labeling northwestern Nevada a Level D3/ extreme drought zone. The drought is weekly surveyed by the National Drought Monitor via the National Drought Mitigation Center. The center collects data from all over the state and represents a consensus of scientists studying the results. The drought monitor determines the drought's severity. The information determines how much aid the U.S. government should give to the agricultural community.

According to the Drought Monitor, precipitation in Washoe County has been less than normal; less than 60 percent of typical rainfall fell. Unless Washoe County receives more precipitation, there will not be enough adequate reservoir storage or groundwater aquifers. Farming and ranching in the area will feel the effects of the water shortage. Last summer's Rim Fire in California's Yosemite Valley was largely due to a lack of water in that area. The risk of forest fires will go up unless the area receives more water. The current vegetation and wild animal population is also suffering due to the lack of water. Lake Tahoe's recent bear activity is possibly due to the drought, as a lack of water kills the bears' natural food source. The drought could also intensify as it gets warmer outside.

"It's a big concern if we don't get anymore precipitation anytime soon," said McGuire. "Hopefully, February and March will bring in a couple of big, classic Sierra storms, Then, we will be back on track."

To learn more information about Nevada's drought conditions, visit www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu.
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