Colorado’s melting snowpack raises flood concerns, with levels peaking at 728 percent in the San Juans
Forecasters are anywhere from concerned to alarmed about the potential for flooding in Colorado’s high country as the water content of the state’s snowpack reaches very high levels, from 324 percent of normal in the South Platte drainage basin above Denver to 728 percent of normal in the San Juan Mountains.
The snow water equivalent, or SWE, of snowpack in the mountains peaked at 20.5 inches on April 15, but was still at about 16.5 inches on Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.
“I wouldn’t say go out and get ready for a massive flood, but getting prepared is a good idea,” NWS meteorologist Natalie Sullivan said Friday. “These levels are definitely something to keep an eye on, but it is not overly alarming.”
The SWE of 16.5 inches is more than three times higher than the normal for May 30, which is more typically 4.5 inches to 6 inches, according to the National Weather Service. The variations in normal levels are attributable to different areas of Colorado.
SWE readings are still significantly lower than years when huge floods killed people and destroyed property, including in 1995 when the SWE was 514 percent and 2011 when it was 499 percent in Colorado’s north-central mountains, Sullivan said.
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