After months of nervous anticipation, the jury is back on the water potential from this winter's Sierra snowfall. Make no mistake: the flurry of late-season precipitation has helped, but has not rescued California from its historic drought.
More than a week's worth of rain and snow that rounded out March and seemed to be shaping up as an "April miracle" gave the meager snowpack a significant boost, from about a quarter of the 30-year average to about a third. That's the good news.
The bad news: it's still only 32 percent of average. In the northern Sierra, it's even worse: water content is still only 23 percent of normal. This is an ugly prospect for a state that counts on the "frozen reservoir" for about a third of its water.
Of the five monthly surveys officials do of the Sierra snowpack each winter, April is considered the most important benchmark. This is usually when the snowpack has peaked, the wet season is winding down, things are warming up and the runoff season begins.