A California Department of Water Resources survey of snow conditions in the mountains near Lake Tahoe has confirmed what cold, hard, remotely collected data -- including views from space -- have been telling us: This season's snowpack is at critically low levels.
At midday Thursday, a DWR team visited a Sierra Nevada meadow at Phillips Station, just off U.S. 50 near Echo Summit, to measure the snow there and calculate its water content.
The not-unexpected result: Although there's a foot more snow on the ground than there was a month ago, its water content is just 2.6 inches -- 14 percent of the Phillips Station average for early February.
DWR said Thursday that statewide, the snowpack is at 27 percent of average for this time of year.
That's mainly the result of a) a very dry December and b) the prevalence of storms in November and January that were so warm that they dropped snow only at high elevations. Until the last 10 days or so, elevations at or below 7,000 feet recorded little in the way of accumulating snow.