Live in snow country and you have an opinion about all that the white stuff that keeps falling. By now snow is not a nice four-letter word for many people.

As someone who no longer owns a snow shovel or blower, my opinion is that is so incredibly beautiful. I had the pleasure to spend a couple days in South Lake Tahoe the last full week of January for a book event. Snowshoeing along the edge of Lake Tahoe with friends was a perfect outing under blue skies.

What was a surprise was how high the snow was from the water’s edge. The water was a couple feet down from where we were standing. Even in most heavy snow years there isn’t this height difference.

The snow depth creates a tunnel effect on Highway 50. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

With few breaks between storms and the temperatures staying cold, there was essentially no time for the snow to compact.

I knew from all the pictures on the news and social media I was going to be surrounded by snow. This was evident when the snow was higher than the Jeep driving along Highway 50.

The depth was further confirmed Feb. 1 during the second annual manual snow survey of the season near the entrance to Sierra-at-Tahoe. The snowpack is 193 percent of average. Statewide, it is 205 percent of average. The depth was more than 7 feet. This is an increase of more than 2 feet from a month earlier.

Ice on Valhalla pier on the South Shore on Jan. 24. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The Sierra snowpack is critical because it accounts for about 30 percent of California’s water supply.

Now being a flatlander that matters even more to me. And being next door to the State Water Project’s largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, brings the snowpack into a different light.

Lake Oroville is the start of the state system that provides drinking water to 27 million people (39 million live in the state) and irrigates 750,000 acres of ag land.

Taylor Creek reflects Mount Tallac. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Lake Oroville on Jan. 31 was at 65 percent of capacity, according to the Department of Water Resources. The good news, though, is that is 112 percent of its historical average for that date.

Yes, there has been a substantial amount of rain and snow this season, but California is still in a drought. Fingers crossed the spigot stays on, but with less intensity than what the state has experienced so far this winter.

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