California reservoirs inch higher after bomb cyclone, additional help on the way
There's still a long ways to go before normalcy returns, but additional rounds of rain and mountain snow will continue to benefit California reservoirs this week.
Dry hillsides surround Lake Oroville on Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Oroville, Calif. At the time of this photo, the reservoir was at 39 percent of capacity and 46 percent of its historical average. Lake levels continued to drop throughout the summer, falling to its current level at 28% capacity as of October 30, 2021 (AP Photo/Noah Berger).
It's going to take a lot more than one storm to erase the long-term drought across California, but the bomb cyclone that marched into the West Coast in late October sure did help. While another storm of that magnitude is not expected to slam into the West Coast this week, there will be multiple rounds of wet weather that will continue to help things trend in the right direction.
Many of California's reservoirs were at historically low levels prior to the arrival of an atmospheric river of moisture between Oct. 24 and Oct. 25. Lake Oroville's hydroelectric power plant had to shut down due to the record low water levels back in August.
The amount of water that rushed into Lake Oroville was staggering in the wake of the bomb cyclone, offering hope to some that the drought conditions may ease. Prior to the influx of rain, the lake level stood at 629 feet above sea level, but just eight days later on Oct. 30, the lake level stood at 659 feet -- a rise of 30 feet in just over a week.
Lake Tahoe also observed a massive influx of water from the recent stormy conditions. Earlier in October, lake levels had fallen below the natural rim, meaning that the lake was no longer connected to its only outlet, the Truckee River. Now, after heavy rain and feet of snow in the mountains, the lake levels have passed about an inch above the natural rim, allowing water to flow into the river.
There's still a long way to go, however, as the lake is considered full when water levels are around 6 feet above the natural rim.
Many other lakes and reservoirs have seen impressive jumps in lake levels, including Folsom Lake which has jumped 19 feet higher, and Lake Shasta -- California's largest reservoir -- which rose 3 feet after the deluge of rainfall.
Reservoir conditions across the state of California as of Nov. 1. Most reservoirs remain well-below their historical averages (California Department of Water Resources).
Although the recent rain has been great news for reservoir levels, there's still a long way to go in order to ease drought and water usage concerns. This upcoming week will feature additional chances for rain and mountain snow along the West coast.
Rainfall will not be nearly as heavy as the bomb cyclone a week or so ago, but a general 0.50 of an inch to perhaps up to 2 inches of rain can fall across the coastal ranges of Northern California by the time wet weather tapers off and shifts inland Tuesday.
A majority of the wet and wintry weather will shift into the Intermountain West on Tuesday, bringing along another fresh coating of snow for the mountainous terrain of the central Rockies.
Conditions may reach winter weather advisory criteria in places like Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Utah's Uinta Mountains and across the mountains of northern Colorado. Any hazardous conditions should remain rather brief in these places, as dry weather is expected Wednesday as an area of high pressure builds in.
It won't take long for another storm to target the West Coast this week, as a potentially more potent disturbance is expected to roll in late Wednesday into Thursday.
This will likely target many of the same areas as the early-week storm, generally from Central California and points north.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the power plant at Oroville Dam had reopened due to recent rainfall. It remains offline but the California Department of Water Resources anticipates the plant will resume power generation in December if lake elevations allow.
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