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Wet snow from recent storm benefits Utah reservoirs

A motorist drives on a plowed street after a snowstorm in Cottonwood Heights on Wednesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — The latest snowstorm delivered exactly what Utah desperately needed across most of the state.

As the state tries to escape from extreme drought, this storm provided a major recharge for our water resources.

A hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said there was more water in this snow than usually arrives in Utah.

It was a heavy, wet snowstorm with a lot of water in it. If you did any shoveling yesterday, you know that: it was a backbreaker.

"This was a shot in the arm. This was a great storm for us," said Jordan Clayton, supervisor of the Utah Snow Survey. "We definitely can use all of the snow water equivalent in the snowpack that we can get."

It's not exactly the greatest snow on earth for skiing that our state typically brags about but this snow was definitely what Utah needed for snowpack, water resources, and also for building up a base at the resorts.

According to Clayton, the snow water equivalent in this storm is similar to the statewide benefit from the storm last week, about an inch of water equivalent.

"That puts us about .8 or .9 inches below where we need to be compared to normal for this time of year," Clayton said.

He said most of Utah's storms come in at about 5% to 8% water density, and this storm had an even greater density. That water is critical for raising the level in Utah's reservoirs which are about 50% statewide.

"It's the water equivalent in the snowpack that helps us replenish the reservoirs when all of that snow melts in the spring," Clayton said. "So, if we don't get enough water equivalent in our snowpack, or we don't get enough storms, then there just isn't enough sitting up there in our mountains, in our storage bank, if you will, to deliver that water later on."

As with any storm, some areas got a lot more water than others.

"The southwest corner of the state did outstandingly well in this storm," Clayton said.

On the plateau above Cedar City, there is now more than 2 1/2 inches of water equivalent, and 20 inches of snow.

"Other areas of the state are still hurting," the hydrologist said. "The Weber/Ogden area, in particular, is still well below normal for snow water equivalent for this time of year."

Another storm just like this one would bring the state back to average precipitation for the year. Utah needs to keep getting storms or it will keep falling behind in the drought.

Another storm is expected to grace Utah with measurable amounts of snowfall on Thursday and Friday, according to forecasts.

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Jed Boal


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