California is received record snowfall this winter, which has been the main contributor to the most significant snowpack in the state’s documented history. This could lead to increased water levels in national forest waterways, posing potential dangers.
As of April 1, the snow water content across the state stands at an impressive 241 percent of the average, as reported by a recent survey conducted by the California Department of Water Resources. Other regions in the state have also recorded unprecedented snowpack levels, such as the Southern Sierra with 300 percent of its April 1 average and the Central Sierra at 237 percent of its April 1 average.
The winter season in California saw 17 atmospheric rivers, which are expected to create challenges in the coming weeks and months as the snow melts, according to Amy Masi, Fire Public Affairs Specialist for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region. National forest units have been evaluating the damage and necessary repairs over the past few weeks, with safety being their utmost priority for both employees and the public. Masi advises checking forest advisories and the National Weather Service before making any plans.
Although spring has arrived in the lower elevation valleys, winter conditions persist in the mountains. Most forest roads, trails, and trailheads around Lake Tahoe remain buried and inaccessible due to snow and ice. Visitors planning a trip should be prepared with appropriate clothing and equipment, including sturdy waterproof footwear, and if possible, postpone backcountry visits.
High water levels in lakes, streams, and rivers can be extremely cold and swift, posing a risk to those who are unprepared or ignore posted warnings. It is crucial not to approach fast-running waterways to test the water or take selfies, as a single slip or unattended child or pet could result in a tragic drowning incident. Extra caution is advised when engaging in recreational activities in national forests this spring.