Pinecrest in winter

Most of Pinecrest Reservoir was empty on Saturday, Feb. 1. Pacific Gas & Electric owns and operates Pinecrest Reservoir and the Strawberry Dam that impounds it. The utility giant stores some Pinecrest water for TUD, and it uses Pinecrest water to generate electricity at powerhouses downstream from Strawberry Dam.

Primary watersheds in the Mother Lode, including the Stanislaus River and Tuolumne River basins, have received 11.1 inches of precipitation since the current water year started Oct. 1.

It’s too early to tell if this 2019-2020 winter season will end up being a record-setter, wet or dry, but the current data shows Calaveras and Tuolumne counties have received just over half -- 53 percent of average -- the amount of rain and snow the region receives each winter as of the date Feb. 3.

According to a five-station index that includes Calaveras Big Trees and Hetch Hetchy, so far this water year we've had a dry October, a dry November, a wet December, a dry January with some sprinkles, and more sprinkles on Super Bowl Sunday. February and March can be the wettest months of a Central Sierra winter. So far this February is off to a dry start.

There’s no rain or snow in Mother Lode forecasts all this week and into the start of next week.

Short-term this week there's a freeze warning early Tuesday for the Central Valley and people in Sonora can expect average overnight lows around 25 degrees Fahrenheit for Monday night into Tuesday, and 29 degrees Tuesday night into Wednesday. Outlooks are sunny and clear until at least next Sunday, Feb. 9.

Scientists with the National Weather Service on Monday released a report on the recently concluded Decade of Extremes with a 2010s Decade Climate Summary.

That report includes the second-wettest water year on record for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, 2016-17, when instruments measured 72.7 inches over 12 months, as well as the drought year 2014-15, when just 19 inches were measured over 12 months.

The second-driest water year on record for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties was 1976-77 when instruments measured 15.4 inches for 12 months that started Oct. 1.

The largest reservoirs in Calaveras County and Tuolumne County are more than 80 percent full this week. On the Stanislaus River, Donnells was 27 percent full Monday, Beardsley was 26 percent full, and New Melones, the fourth largest-capacity reservoir in the state, was 83 percent full with 1,982,580 acre-feet impounded.

In the Tuolumne River basin, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir was 70 percent full Monday, Cherry Reservoir was 81 percent full, and Don Pedro, the state’s sixth largest-capacity reservoir, was 81 percent full with 1,394,735 acre-feet impounded.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, in the South Fork Stanislaus watershed that provides water for more than 40,000 people served by Tuolumne Utilities District, most of Pinecrest Reservoir was empty, with most of the water pooled in the deepest section near the dam on the northwest side of the man-made lake.

Pacific Gas & Electric owns and operates Pinecrest Reservoir and the Strawberry Dam that impounds it. The utility giant stores some Pinecrest water for TUD, and it uses Pinecrest water to generate electricity at powerhouses downstream from Strawberry Dam.

 

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

 

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