Snowstorm to usher in fresh powder, boost reservoir storage, chase away inversion
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has made it midway through the snow and water accumulation season, and a snowstorm due Thursday is expected to add to what is shaping to be an average snowpack across the state.
"We have half the winter ahead of us, but we like what we see so far," said Randy Julander, Utah Snow Survey expert with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. "We're in a pretty good spot, but we are still hoping for more."
The agency's Utah Climate and Water Report was released Tuesday, the same day the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City said a strong storm system will move in and push out the inversion as well as dump as much as 18 inches of new snow in the mountains.
Wind and gusts will accompany the storm Thursday, with blowing and drifting snow possible, especially across east-west corridors. Commuters may face challenging driving conditions that evening, and Friday is expected to be a wintry drive across the state.
The storm is expected to linger into Saturday and could leave as much as 7 inches of new snow in valley locations.
Julander said the snow is needed to freshen up the snowpack for winter recreationers and begin adding to water totals that will be compiled through March.
"We still have a couple of months to go," he said.
Across the state, seasonal precipitation is just barely shy of average — at 99 percent — and basins throughout Utah saw a big boost with healthy snow and rain totals piling up in December.
In the Bear River region, precipitation was 121 percent of average in December. In the Weber/Ogden River basin, it was 107 percent of average in December.
Repeated storms during that month pushed the Provo-Jordan River basin to 123 percent of average. The January report puts that basin now at above normal, 114 percent, for seasonal accumulation.
Southwestern Utah also is faring well, with storms that pushed that region above average for precipitation — 105 percent — for the season. The amount of water, or snow-water equivalent, is at 132 percent.
Julander said the state needs more snow and the water it delivers to prop up reservoir storage, which remains at less than desirable numbers.
"We used an awful, awful amount of water last summer," he said.
Statewide, reservoir storage is at 64 percent of average, compared with 84 percent of average at this time last year.