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Winter storms help end ‘snow drought’ across parts of the US West

Recent bouts of heavy mountain snowfall in parts of the U.S. West have helped quell a “snow drought” that was threatening to further desiccate an already arid region, federal meteorologists announced Thursday.

A major, four-day blizzard earlier this month brought considerable improvements to the Sierra Nevada, freeing the entire region from the so-called “snow drought” — a period in which there are abnormally low levels of snowpack, which serves as a water reservoir for much of the West.

“The Sierra Nevada has been making a slow and steady snow drought recovery since early winter,” meteorologists stated in a March snow drought update, issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

Snowpack levels, they continued, are greatest in the northern Sierra Nevada, where snow-water equivalent — the amount of water contained in snow — is 111 percent of the norm for this date.

Accumulations were slightly lower, but still much improved, in the southern Sierra Nevada, at 94 percent of the typical snow-water equivalent for this time.

Conditions in the Great Basin — a hydrologic zone that includes most of Nevada, much of Utah and parts of California, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming — remained “well above normal,” according to the update.

Many locations reported snow-water equivalent levels that were greater than 150 percent of the norm for this time of year.

Despite these positive developments, however, NOAA/NIDIS meteorologists had words of warning for other parts of the U.S. West.

“Snow drought lingers in the Northern Rockies and parts of the Northwest,” they stated.

Specifically, parts of Washington state, northern Wyoming, western Montana and northern Idaho were still enduring snow drought conditions due to snowfall deficits.

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