Late-season storms improve Eagle County snowpack
Ryan Summerlin May 10, 2013
VAIL — Late season storms and cool weather pushed Colorado’s statewide snowpack to near normal levels, says the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Where we are, the Upper Colorado River Basin, the snowpack is 98 percent of the median.
“Those wet storms really improved our water supplies, especially along the Front Range and Upper Colorado River basin,” said Phyllis Ann Phillips, state conservationist with the NRCS.
After an entire month of storms, the May 1 snow surveys showed that the statewide snowpack percentage climbed to 83 percent of median from 74 percent a month ago.
We got to 83 percent of the normal snowpack on Vail Mountain. That’s a solid year, especially compared to last year, said Diane Johnson with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
“Because it’s cool, people aren’t using water yet for landscaping and irrigating,” Johnson said.
The Snotel site in Vail indicates we’re still within the normal range. This year’s snowpack on Vail Mountain peaked April 25, the same day it almost always does, Johnson said.
By this time last year, Vail Mountain snowpack was completely gone.
Because this spring is cooler, snow is hanging on longer. Hopefully that means it’ll last longer into the spring and early summer.
Ideally, the last of the snowpack won’t melt until late May.
Even with the relatively good news, there are still watering restrictions in place, Johnson said.
Colorado’s snowpack usually begins melting in April, Phillips said. This season, the snowpack didn’t peak until April 24, two weeks later than normal.
The April storms, which dropped wet snow all over northern Colorado, completely missed the southwest part of the state. The storms improved the water supply outlook for most of the state’s seven major river basins, however.
While most forecasts across the state still call for below normal runoff volumes, some forecasts for the headwaters of the Colorado and South Platte basins are now near to slightly above average.
Reservoir storage is 74 percent of average and 68 percent of 2012.
The good news is that in the northern basins the recent snow accumulation has yet to run off. That should improve storage and extend water supplies further into summer.
In the southern basins, storage levels remain low and probably won’t get any better, Phillips said.
The Colorado Climate Center says our region can expect increased shower activity and decent liquid accumulation through this week, with a return to warm and dry weather through the weekend and into next week.
With that in mind, the Colorado Climate Center says our region is still in a level 1 drought, the least dangerous level.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and email@example.com