California's snowpack nearly double its springtime norm

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California's snowpack is the healthiest it's been in years, reaching double its normal levels after five years of punishing drought. 

State water officials conducted the final snowpack survey of California's raining season. The snow is beginning to melt, and will soon rush downhill into  canals and reservoirs. Water officials say that since the snow holds more water than it has compared to previous years, communities downstream are at a higher risk of flooding. 

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they expect the Merced River in Yosemite National Park to go at least a foot over its banks on Wednesday. 

The series of storms that slammed northern California in January wasn't just a boon to end the drought. It also took an unfortunate toll on the iconic Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife say dozens of the animals starved or died in avalanches during the snowy season. 

Wild bears have also stayed tucked away in their dens, hibernating a full month longer than normal. 

Backpackers are being warned away from hiking in the vast mountain ranges for now. Hiking in deep snow takes know-how and the right equipment according to the Sierra Club's Kathryn Phillips. 

California's snowpack provides around one third of all California water supplies. 

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