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Weekly wrap-up: Phil declares 6 more weeks of winter; California officials record highest Sierra snowpack in 22 years

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Blinding snow squalls led to multiple accidents across Pennsylvania this week, leading to several fatalities.

In York County, a pileup involving 40 cars and 11 trucks occurred on Monday as an intense burst of snow hit along Interstate 83, killing one. A 20-car pileup led to at least one death in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, on Monday along Interstate 80.

"As the squalls crossed major highways in the region, a sudden change in visibility and a quick covering of snow caused dangerous conditions," Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

Pennsylvania Snow Squalls Photo

Photo by J. Marc Harrison


In the long-standing tradition, Punxsutawney Phil issued his annual prognostication this week, calling for six more weeks of winter.

In California, officials measured the highest snowpack on the Sierra Nevada mountain range in 22 years this week.

As the snow melts in the spring, the runoff fulfills about 30 percent of California's water needs, the state's department of water resources said. Officials measured a snow water equivalence of 28.1 inches.

snowpack

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program for the Department of Water Resources, crosses a snow covered meadow after conducting the second manual snow survey of the season at at Phillips Station Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, near Echo Summit, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)


A wet year so far has led to the significant snowpack and will likely ease drought concerns going into the next season.

Also this week, scientists said there was no "exceptional drought" area in the entire United States for the first time in nearly six years. Southern California was downgraded to an extreme drought. The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies exceptional drought as the most severe level.

drought_2_3_17

United States Drought Monitor (USDM) assessment for Jan. 24, 2017, released on Jan. 26, 2017. "L" and "S" indicate whether long-term or short-term drought impacts dominated. Areas designated "SL" are experiencing both scales of impact. (NOAA image/Climate.gov)



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Meteorologists, Punxsutawney Phil predict 6 more weeks of winter

Drought, high temperatures and winds continue to create dire wildfire conditions in Chile as the country faces one of its worst natural disaster in history.

Thousands have been displaced and more than 10 people have been killed due to the raging fires. More than 400,000 acres of forest have been destroyed over the last week, the Guardian reported.

Heat swelled over parts of Australia this week, leading to a high of 113 F (45 C) in Moomba in the central part of the country. A state-wide fire ban was declared in Victoria for the first time this summer.