PHOTO/DAVE ROBERT: The Sierra Nevada, as seen from an aircraft north of Reno on May 9, when the snow accumulation had already broken a 70-year record.

The “winter that didn’t want to end” has blanketed the Sierra Nevada in the deepest snowpack recorded in more than 70 years, officials reported.

This spring, the accumulated snow was estimated to contain about 30 million acre-feet of water—more water than is in Lake Mead—according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of snow-sensor data. The UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab reported that the winter of 2023 was the second-snowiest in the 77 years of record-keeping. That translates into more than 56.4 feet by mid-March, as compared with the record of 67.7 feet set in 1952, when more than 200 passengers on a San Francisco-bound train from Chicago were stranded for three days near Donner Pass.

Other unusually snowy Sierra winters include 1890, 1938, 1969, 1983, 1995, 2011 and 2017. The winter of 1847, which stranded the Donner Party, was said to have dumped more than 22 feet at Donner Lake. That winter was severe, with about 20 storms hammering the Sierra from October to March, but other winters since have generated greater snow depths. In the Donner Party’s case, numerous storms early in the season were the main cause of the disaster that entrapped 81 people in the beautiful, deep and deadly snow.

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