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The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, KUNR in Nevada, Nevada Public Radio, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana and Wyoming Public Media, with support from affiliate stations across the region.

Snowpack is lacking around Lake Tahoe, but strong in other parts of Mountain West

A man carrying a large blue pole on his right shoulder is smiling as he stands in the snow. He's surrounded by snow-covered trees.
Kaleb Roedel
Mountain West News Bureau
Jeff Anderson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, carries a tool used to measure the snowpack at Mt. Rose near Reno and Lake Tahoe on Feb. 8, 2024.

The wet season got off to a weak start in the Mountain West, but federal officials say recent winter storms have helped strengthen some snowpacks.

In Nevada, most snowpacks across the state are above normal, which means snow levels are higher than their historical median levels for this time of year.

One area below normal is the Sierra Nevada mountains near Reno and Lake Tahoe, where the snowpack is less than two-thirds its median level for early February. That’s despite being hit recently by an atmospheric river, which is a long region in the atmosphere that transports water.

“Those atmospheric river storms are what we need in this area to develop a really robust snowpack,” said Jeff Anderson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who measures snowpack in northern Nevada. “So, we've had one this year – probably need four more to have close to normal snowpack for April.”

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The Reno-Tahoe region, however, has a lot of carryover water storage from last year’s historically wet winter, said Chad Blanchard, a U.S. District Court water master who keeps track of the region’s water supplies.

“This has been a disappointing start to this year,” he said. “However, there's quite a bit of winter left and there's still a chance to turn it around.”

Elsewhere in the Mountain West, most of Utah has an above normal snowpack, and so do sections of southern Idaho and northern New Mexico. In Colorado, snowpack levels across the state are all close to normal. Meanwhile, most of Wyoming has a below normal snowpack.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.