Record low snow could lead to dangerous fire season

Reported by: Ashley Cullins
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Updated: 4/01/2013 5:59 pm
RENO, Nev. (KRNV & -- The final snow pack measurement of the year shows this winter isn't any better than last. 

Despite higher than average precipitation in December, we're finishing this winter with less snow and rain than the area has seen in more than a hundred years. Weather experts say we're in an extreme drought and could be facing a dangerous fire season again this year. 

"Man it's pretty bleak," said snow survey manager Dan Greenlee. "Pretty sad end to the year."

Greenlee says the final snowpack measurements are a disappointing end to a disappointing season. 

National Weather Service Meteorologist Alex Hoon says this year came up nearly a foot short of the average. 

"The last three months, January, February and March, are actually the driest on record," Hoon said.

With the exception of this year and last, they're usually three of the wettest months. 

"November through March that's when we're putting money in the bank as far as water supply," said NWS Hydrologist Gary Barbato. "That's when we get all our snowpack." 

Barbato says mother nature is done making deposits until next fall. 

"Even if it's relatively wet, it's not going to make up for what we lost in January through March," Barbato said. 

Without that snowpack we're heading into fire season with the Sierra even drier than last year.

"Luckily Lake Tahoe dodged a bullet last summer," Hoon said.

This summer we might not get so lucky. 

"It all depends on lightning activity and hopefully people not being careless in the outdoors," Hoon said. 

Barbato says two back to back dry seasons isn't unusual.

"If we're in dire straits next February still, that's when it's going to start looking really grim," Barbato said.

Barbato says most people in urban areas won't be affected by the drought this summer, except for typical water conservation recommendations.

But farmers could face challenges and they'll know more once the water reserves have been analyzed. That's expected to happen in the next week.
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