For those living near the Sierra, this year has been anything but normal. We've seen it all in northern California and Nevada, from rain, to snow, and even flooding. We live in a unique area because of the mountains. The Sierra can make forecasting extra difficult, and oftentimes allows for more precipitation to fall on the west side than the east.  

"A lot more snow this year, definitely a lot of moisture, more snow than last year," said Nevada resident Alan Atwell.

Atwell works in Virginia City where they've seen around 50 more inches of snow this water year compared to 2016.  In South Lake Tahoe, make that 40 inches. The Reno Airport has seen a lot of precipitation too, much of it falling as rain. After the crazy winter we've had, many people we asked assumed we saw significantly more snow in Reno this year than last. 

With storm after storm moving in here, this would be the common choice, and looking at January alone they would be correct. A difference of about seven and a half inches. However, it's a much closer race when you look at the past several months. About a half inch separates us from 2016 and 2017. If the airport was higher up in elevation, the difference would be different. 

"Climbing up the mountain the elevation makes a big difference. I mean once you get up higher the snow starts coming in heavier and sticking. Elevation does make a difference," said Atwell who makes the drive to Virginia City from Dayton often. 

The rain shadow effect also plays a role keeping a lot of the moisture on the west side. When Reno got an inch of rain, the mountains, at times this year, got at least four times that amount. The rain shadow effect is when the mountains act as a wall to storms moving in from the Pacific. The air is able to rise as it approaches the mountains, but has a hard time making to the other side. 

Not counting our current storm, we've already received nearly an inch of precipitation this season. Remember last spring? In 2016, we ended the month of March with almost seven inches of snow on the ground. All it takes is the right amount of moisture and enough cold air to make it happen.