SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — When there’s rain in the Bay Area, that usually means snow in the Sierra. The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab has recorded more than 700 inches of snow this season — the most in 70 years.
The lab’s lead scientist spoke to KRON4 about the challenges of record-breaking snow.
The Central Sierra Snow lab has boarded up its windows to prevent them from breaking under the pressure of high snowbanks and their phone lines recently went down for two weeks. It’s not been an easy year to live and work in the Sierra.
“Seven hundred and fifteen inches effectively takes us to second place in the snowiest years measured at the snow lab since 1946,” said Andrew Schwartz, lead scientist at the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab.
According to Schwartz, the only winter to beat this year was the winter of 1952 with 812 inches of snow. Ski Resorts might like to see that record broken, but locals feel differently.
“We, along with the building department, have red tagged about 20 buildings since around March 1,” said South Lake Tahoe Fire Marshal Kim George.
Heavy snow on rooftops is causing them to collapse under the pressure and homeowners are concerned they’ll be next.
“It’s thousands of pounds of weight on our roofs,” said resident Sue Novasel.
When it comes to research, a big part of the work at the Central Sierra Snow Lab is measuring snow melt. Swartz says flooding is a big concern this year.
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“If we see accelerated periods of melt when we get abnormally warm or hot temperatures that really speed things up that can cause some issues and potentially some damaging flooding,” said Schwartz.
He says there will still be flooding even from a normal melt, especially in valleys and low-lying areas. The lead scientist is most excited about the water, after experiencing several years of severe drought.
“It’s just been an exciting year in general, it will be fantastic to see the papers that are written about it,” said Schwartz. “But also just fantastic that we have our water storage bulking up in the way that we have.”
We asked Schwartz if he thinks we’ll break the 1952 record of 812 inches of snowfall. He says it’s possible, but unlikely given that the extended forecast is showing less severe weather for the remainder of the season.