It might be hard for anybody suffering through a Midwestern blizzard to sympathize, but the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California is seriously short on snow.
That's not just bad news for skiers and for the wintertime industry that caters to them. When the snow melts, it provides water to residents all the way west to San Francisco and south to Los Angeles. It also replenishes streams and rivers used by salmon and other wildlife. Less snow in winter means less water later in the year. (Meanwhile, L.A. just set a new record for the lowest annual rainfall on record.)
Officials measured the Sierra snowpack on Friday and found it to be storing just 19 percent of the average amount of water for this time of year. That matches a record low set at this time last year, suggesting that the region is at the beginning of a third straight year of drought.