WEATHER

Late winter storm adds to already flourishing Utah snowpack

Mar 25, 2024, 11:45 AM

People hike in winter...

People hike to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon on Dec. 1, 2023. Utah's snowpack enters 2024 below normal for every region, but weather and climate models are beginning to point in the state's favor. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY— A late winter storm along the Wasatch Front might’ve caused a headache for drivers over the weekend, but it also added more to the already flourishing Utah snowpack.

According to state data Monday morning, Utah’s state water equivalent, or the average amount of water in the snowpack around the entire state, sat at 17 inches of water.

That’s 25% above the 30-year average for March 25, and 6% above every peak snowpack ever recorded in the Beehive State.

The statewide snow water equivalent actually reached 17 inches a week ago, but dropped a half inch when temperatures spiked last week.

This latest storm completely replenished what melted off.

In short, Utahns can expect a terrific water supply for the year, especially given Utah’s strong reservoir levels after last year’s record snowpack and spring runoff.

Utah snowpack and spring runoff

KSL Meteorologist Matt Johnson said not only does this latest round of winter weather give Utah more water in the tank for the year, it also helps prepare the way for an efficient spring runoff.

Johnson said this late rain and snow will help saturate the soil. When that’s the case, water flowing out of the mountains moves over the ground until it reaches a lake, river or reservoir.

Last year, when the soil was bone dry from years of drought, a lot of the first batch of water was sucked up into the ground.

Johnson said this last storm should help the first batch of water that comes down the mountain actually make it to a water body of some kind.

When does spring runoff begin?

According to state data, the average day the snowpack peaks out for the season is April 3. Though it varies on the year.

Last year, since it wouldn’t stop snowing into early April, the snow water equivalent peaked on April 8 before it began to steadily decrease.

Johnson didn’t gave an exact date he expected the snowpack to peak, since Utah is looking at mountain snow off and on throughout the entire week.

He thinks the snow water equivalent could rise another inch or two before it peaks for the season. He said at this point, with a mix of small storms and warmer weather, the snow water equivalent likely won’t rise much more than that.

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