It's finally spring in Mammoth, and the town's record-breaking snowfall is beginning to thaw after a brutal winter which tested even the heartiest local's resolve.
Spring-inspired murals brighten spirits around the still-snow covered town.
Severe storms brought more than 700 inches of snow to the area - and with it came several challenges - including avalanches, power outages, structure damage and road closures. Experts suggest it’s only the beginning of the impact we’ll see as a result of this epic winter season.
Objects begin to emerge as the snow melts away.
“Winter in the west has become an exercise much like staying atop a bucking bronco: from intense drought to being flung into this year’s wild and unpredictable 'snowpocalypse'," said Mammoth-based Tom Painter, founder and CEO of the Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO), an organization that provides snow mapping and runoff forecasting to the world’s mountains using data collected via its specially equipped planes.
Last year, ASO ended its flyover season in late May. Painter said this year, they expect to be flying until at least August. (See below for 2022 vs. 2023 images).
In early April, the statewide snowpack registered 237% of normal, the most on record since the mid-1980s. (That's more water than Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir.)
"We've never mapped snowpack this big," Painter said.
As temperatures rise, all of that water has to go somewhere. In addition to melting and flooding homes and businesses, the water will flow down to lower-elevation valleys, rivers and reservoirs causing overflow and flooding in what is being called 'The Big Melt.' According to a recent L.A. Times article, "How high those flows will get, and what their ultimate effects are, will largely depend on how quickly temperatures rise."
A local business mitigates flooding by breaking up ice and using sandbags to keep water outside.
"We can be heartened by what winter 2023 is doing to help us recover from drought but must remember the flooding and crushing of homes to date," Painter said. "There is still more to come as this immense snowpack finally liquifies and amounts to epic runoff.”
Losing layers. Locals embrace warmer temps, while preparing for the 'Big Melt.'