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Storms helping Utah build snowpack, recover from drought

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SALT LAKE CITY — The snowstorm hitting Utah Wednesday will deliver exactly what the statewide snowpack needs to help recover from the extended drought. Plus, there are a handful of days ahead with storms in the forecast.

Utah's mountains need above-average snowfall and above-average snowpack this winter. Jordan Clayton, supervisor of the Snow Survey for Utah, said this storm and those in the forecast will give the snowpack the boost it needs.

"By the time this storm system rolls out, we're going to be well above normal in all of the basins in the state, which is fantastic," Clayton said.

December has delivered the wet snowstorms that the state needs to build up snowpack, and ultimately recharge reservoirs in the spring.

Another storm is on the way this weekend.

The National Weather Service said the storm will have a big impact.

"Significant snow and water amounts are expected and major impacts are possible, especially on New Year's Day," a weather service tweet said. "Snow accumulations of 1 to 3 feet of snow are forecast in the northern mountains."

"This is fantastic," the hydrologist said. "We're already up to 133% of normal snow water equivalent for the state. That's a big boost from just yesterday."

With another 50 inches of snow in the forecast over the next five to 10 days.

Right now, Clayton said Utah already has 45% of its typical peak snowpack, which usually occurs on April 1.

"That's really exciting because we still have about three to three and a half months left until we get to our typical peak," he said. "So, we have a long time left, and we're ahead of schedule from the snowpack perspective."

The hydrologist said the precipitation that falls as rain instead of snow is captured in the snowpack at medium to high elevations.

"If the moisture comes down as liquid rain instead of snow, this time of year, unless it's a real major rainstorm, that moisture is going to get held within the snowpack," Clayton said. "It's not going to be something that will drive flooding."

Prior to this storm cycle, snow water equivalent totals had dropped off, falling below average for the first time this season in a couple of basins. But the hydrologist said that won't be a problem for at least a couple of weeks.

"So, let these storms keep rolling in," Clayton said. "We'll take as much as we can get."

The more snow piles up in Utah's mountains now, the better the runoff this spring, to fill reservoirs for the summer.

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Jed Boal


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