RENO, Nev.—Weather watchers in the Sierra Nevada say they need a "Miracle March" to recover from an abysmal winter that has produced only one-third of the normal snowpack by this time of year.

"March is really our last chance to make a big recovery," federal water master Chad Blanchard said.

It's typically the Sierra's snowiest month of the year, and it has come through like gangbusters before—most recently in 2011 when nearly 17 feet of snow fell on Alpine Meadows, the biggest March total in 41 years. A Miracle March also helped avert drought disaster in 1991 when a series of late storms boosted Sierra snowpack from a low of about 16 percent on March 1 to more than 60 percent on April 1.

Could another one be on the horizon?

"It's possible but not likely," Blanchard told the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://tinyurl.com/mck58ur).

The National Weather Service's monthlong outlook for the area is calling for equal chances of a wetter- or drier-than-normal period over the next 30 days.

"We've still got a little hope, but we're less than half of where we should be," Blanchard said. "We've got a long way to go."

A storm moving in Tuesday night was expected to bring up to 4 inches of snow at the crest of the Sierra, with snow levels starting at 7,000 feet and moving down to 6,500 feet. Up to three-tenths of an inch of rain could fall in Reno. But it could be too little too late.

"The bottom line is we are in such a deficit the storms this week will be only a blip in terms of making any difference," said Chris Smallcomb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

Snowpack for the Truckee River Basin on Monday measured 32 percent of where it should be for the date. The Lake Tahoe Basin was 47 percent and the Carson River Basin 55 percent, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com