HELENA - The Sierra Mountains of California are experiencing a historic winter with incredible snowfall in what might become the snowiest winter there ever recorded.
This edition of Weather Wise takes a look at \the severity of this winter rivals any in the past including conditions faced by the tragic Donner party in 1846 to 1847.
As of this weekend, the Southern Sierra has the largest snowpack in recorded history, not just for the calendar date but for any date, and the snow shows no signs of easing up.
In some places, more than 50 feet have fallen in less than six months, and nearly 12 feet has piled up in the last 7 days.
Besides people having to dig tunnels and corridors to their homes, there are several other risks and hazards.
Avalanche danger is extremely high with slides occurring in places never seen before.
There is increased strain on structures and equipment with people having to shovel roofs as some have collapsed under the weight.
Travel has been impossible at times with some roads being closed until the snow melts late in the spring.
Propane leaks have developed from tanks buried under heavy snow resulting in explosions.
Dozens of rescue operations have been necessary, and emergency crews have had to get stranded homeowners supplies and food.
Yosemite National Park has been closed indefinitely as the snow is so deep it's buried many of the park's webcams.
Most of the state is between 150% to 300% of normal snowpack, and if it did not snow another inch, this season would rank in the top five snowiest winters of all time.
Three months ago nearly half of the state was facing extreme or exceptional drought, the worst two categories in both two tiers have since been fully eliminated.