PHILLIPS STATION, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on California's first snowpack survey of the season (all times local):
The Sierra Nevada's first snowpack survey of the season on Tuesday found water content at about half of normal, as the state possibly enters a sixth year of drought.
Surveyors took the readings near Lake Tahoe as major storms were bearing down on California, likely to boost the snowpack.
Frank Gehrke, the state's chief snow surveyor, said the water content measured at 53 percent of normal. Despite the low level, he says it's a good start.
Forecasters say the major storm will pound Northern and Central California this week.
National Weather Service forecaster Bob Benjamin says four to five feet of snow is expected in mountains above 5,000 feet.
Rain is also expected to increase over the next couple days and become more widespread in the San Francisco Bay Area.
California surveyors are plunging poles into the Sierra Nevada snowpack, taking the season's first measurement by hand as the state flirts with a sixth year of drought.
They will do the survey Tuesday near Lake Tahoe.
Electronic monitors in late December showed the snow's water content at just 72 percent of normal. That dipped even lower during the holiday weekend.
Since October, ample rain has fallen swelling reservoirs, but the snowpack has lagged. The mountain snowpack is vital because it provides roughly a third of California's water.
Doug Carlson of the state's Department of Water Resources cautions that the drought clearly hasn't ended.
He says groundwater supplies are depleted, and some residents with dry wells in Tulare County still live on bottled drinking water.