Randy Wyrick

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March 9, 2014
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Snowpack surges thanks to storms that hit in February

EAGLE COUNTY — February’s storms pushed the snowpack way above average across most of the state, as well as the Colorado River Basin, where we are.

Statewide, the snowpack is 116 percent of the median and 161 percent of this past year.

In the Colorado River Basin, where we live, the snowpack is 130 percent of the median and 185 percent of this past year, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Three good months

Colorado’s snowpack has tracked above the long-term normal for three consecutive months, said Phyllis Ann Phillips, Colorado state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

It helped that the “Storm of the Century” blew through in early February, even though the century is still pretty young.

That storm increased snowpack totals from 95 percent to 109 percent of the median in just four days, the NRCS said.

Most years, snow keeps piling up until around April 25, said Diane Johnson with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

Snowpack is important because it works like a massive reservoir. The snow depth is what comes down and piles up. The snow water equivalent is the water that snow contains.

Light fluffy powder doesn’t hold as much water. Late season snow in April and May has more water because the temperature is warmer.

This past year, the snow water equivalent lagged behind normal until a series of late season storms hit in April and May and piled up enough snow that we had a normal year.

No Nino

Once again this year’s “No Nino” weather patterns favored the northern and central mountain ranges in Colorado, places like Vail, Beaver Creek and Steamboat Springs, Phillips said.

The southwest part of the state, the Upper Rio Grande and the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins, are suffering through another below normal snow year. While the combined San Juan basins did see a 3 percentage point increase from this past month, that put them at 85 percent of median, the Upper Rio Grande basin lost five percentage points, dropping to just 79 percent of median.

Streamflow forecasts for the Colorado River Basin point toward above to well-above normal volumes for this spring and summer, Phillips said.

She said the snowpack should improve reservoir storage.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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The VailDaily Updated Mar 9, 2014 09:53PM Published Mar 10, 2014 03:54PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.