Snow People

Snow people were close by as the California Department of Water Resources collected samples during the first snow survey of the season, at Phillips Station, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. (Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle)

By Peter Fimrite
Tuesday, January 26, 2016 – Updated 4:04 pm

The heavens have opened up this winter and are dumping gobs of snow on the Sierra Nevada.

The snowpack in the Sierra contains more water than any year since 2011 on this date, according to the California Department of Water Resources. It’s a good sign, but no guarantee that the four-year drought that has left the Golden State high and dry is coming to an end, officials said.

Electronic readings of the Sierra snowpack Tuesday showed a water content of 18.7 inches, or 115 percent of the historical average for Jan. 26, water resources managers said.

Precipitation since Oct. 1 in the critical Northern California watershed is 116 percent of the multi-decade average for the date.

It’s the most snow in the mountains since the drought began, but water managers say the April 1 measurement is the one that matters most. That’s when the snowpack begins to melt, filling the state’s reservoirs. Snow typically accounts for about 30 percent of California’s water supply.

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