April storms boost runoff in Vail, High Country
VAIL, Colorado ” The snowpack in the Vail Valley and Colorado hit 115 percent of average May 1 after a pair of soggy storms rolled across the state in late April.
Snows piled up on the Front Range, including the critical South Platte Basin, where Denver stores water. By May 1, the South Platte snowpack reached 103 percent of average.
A combination of weather and water supply in the South Platte Basin affect the operations of Dillon Reservoir, which is expected to fill by late spring or early summer.
The Colorado River Basin snowpack, including Summit County, tallied 120 percent of average for May 1. The storms pasted Summit County’s higher peaks with up to 3 feet of snow, as local ski areas shut their lifts with season-high snowpacks.
A-Basin is to remain open a few more weeks with events set for most weekends, and Loveland is set to close Sunday. Check http://www.arapahoebasin.com and http://www.skiloveland.com for details and snow conditions. A-Basin is reporting a 56-inch base. Loveland, with 415 inches total snow for the season, has a 72-inch base.
Cool, showery weather is expected this weekend, and backcountry travelers should be prepared for rapid changes in conditions, including the threat of wet snow slides during rapid warming periods. With temperatures in the low 40s and wind gusting to 35 mph, hypothermia is a risk.
At the National Weather Service site in Dillon, Denver Water officials tallied 19.7 inches of snow for April, just a bit above the average 18.2-inches, based on records from two different locations going back to 1909.
In Breckenridge, veteran weather watcher Rick Bly measured 31 inches of snow for the month, about 25 percent more than the average snowfall of 24.7 inches.
At his weather station in downtown Breckenridge, Bly said he has measured 158.06 inches for the season beginning Oct. 1, 2008. The average is 151.8 inches.
All in all, it was an average snowfall season, Bly said, reporting that only December and April brought above-average snow. December was about twice as snowy as average, he said.
Bly also said he measured no double-digit snowfalls during the season. The biggest single dumps were 8.5 inches back in December, and another 7.8 inch day in mid-April.
Snowfall in Breckenridge averages about 10.9 inches for May, but has ranged between zero (1994) to 35 inches (1983) during the years Bly has taken local observations.
Overall, Colorado is in good shape going into the runoff season, federal water watchers said in their monthly press release. The lower elevation snow melt has produced above average streamflows in many basins during April.
Runoff forecasts for the remainder of the spring and summer months continue to call for near-average to well above-average volumes. The highest volumes, as a percent of average, remain across southern Colorado, where mid-winter storms brought impressive snowpack totals.
“This year’s runoff across the Gunnison, Arkansas, Rio Grande and San Juan river basins appear to be the best in over a decade and many water users will be able to take advantage of the runoff in coming months,” said state conservationist Allen Green.
Despite the whopper storms, the second half of April was considerably drier than normal, which halted any significant additional accumulations. Warm temperatures have allowed snowmelt to proceed as is typically expected. By month’s end, snow melt was well underway, especially at lower elevations, Green said.
Wildfires have become more numerous, bigger and more destructive in the past 40 years. That’s a big deal in a town surrounded by public land.