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Drought: Sierra Nevada snowpack 'off to a good start'

Mt. Whitney, as seen from HWY 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

Despite the wet weather earlier this week, California is still very much in a serious drought.

However, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the all-important snowpack did see a bump thanks to the storm, according to officials with the California Department of Water Resources.

"We're off to a good start," said Arthur Hinojosa, Chief of Hydrology and Flood Operations for DWR.

The snowpack essentially functions as one of the state's most important reservoirs.

The snow that gathers in the Sierra over winter slowly melts in the spring and summer, doling out water when California needs it most.

Last year the snowpack was at record low levels. So far this year, things look a bit better.

Hinojosa said that based on an average from eight remote sensors, the state’s overall snow supply is at about 46% of average for December.

In an average December, the Sierra typically sees 8.4 inches of rain and snow. So far there has been about 3.9 inches. But there is still time to catch up.

To stay on track, Hinojosa said, the state will need to see continued precipitation for the next few weeks.

"We need to be wet," he said.

Fortunately, forecasters expect more rain and snow in the mountains this weekend.

The data on the precipitation comes from electronic sensors stationed in key areas of the mountains.

So far, the various regions of the Sierra are reporting the following snowpack levels:

Around January 1st, weather permitting, a team from DWR will head out to conduct a more detailed manual reading of snow levels.