Western states wish they had Ohio's snow and cold

Jane BeathardUnusually cold and snowy weather in the East and Midwest has folks in the Sierra Mountains of northern Nevada and California jealous and may well spell a busy upcoming summer for Ohio's wildland firefighters.

I just returned from a trip to Nevada where newspapers are full of articles about ongoing drought in the northern part of the state. For the third year in a row, snowpack in the Lake Tahoe Basin and around the Truckee River is way below normal.

It's a little hard for us to believe since we've already scooped our share of snow this year in Ohio.

Two dry winters have left lakes and reservoirs in the Sierras low and may eventually translate into equally dry, fire-prone forests when the weather turns warm.

Last summer, Ohio dispatched three 20-man teams of wildfire fighters to northern California as the area saw one of the worst fire seasons in generations. California is home to the nation's largest contingent of wildfire fighters. So, it's an indication of how serious the fire season was when they turned eastward for help.

There's still plenty of winter left. And it only takes a few big snowstorms to turn the drought in the Sierras around. But the year is off to a bad start. The longer the situation continues, the more difficult it becomes to make up a lack of precipitation.

It won't take long to find out. Last year, the fire season in northern California began in early spring and lasted well into the fall. Unless snow comes soon to the area, 2014 will likely bring a repeat.

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