Editorial: Will snow lead to flooding in Colorado High Country? | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Will snow lead to flooding in Colorado High Country?

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily Editorial Board

We’ve been blessed with bountiful snow this winter. But will the winter’s blessing become a springtime curse?

With snowpack in the Rockies in better shape than it’s been in years, the folks who manage our streams and reservoirs are starting to sound worried that this year’s snowmelt could lead to full reservoirs (which is good) and, potentially, some local flooding along streams.

That could happen, to be sure, but we’d advise anyone who lives along a creek or river to wait a while ” maybe through the end of March ” before filling up their sandbags.

Maybe it’s the result of climate change ” or maybe it’s because weather forecasting is still an imprecise science ” but area climate-watchers admit they’ve been baffled by our snowy winter. A “la nina” weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean was supposed to keep our snowfall totals lower than normal through much of the winter (in fact, the Front Range is still gripped by drought). As we all know, those forecasts were as wildly wrong as those of pollsters in this year’s presidential contest.

So, nearing the end of February, mountainsides are groaning with snow, with our two snowiest months coming up.

But don’t be so sure nature will behave as expected.

The drought we’re just now emerging from started in earnest in 2002. Snowpack was below average, but not alarmingly so, through the end of March. Then came April.

Those of you who lived and worked downvalley that spring may recall that several weeks of nearly gale-force winds took visible chunks out of the snowpack every day.

By the time the wind stopped, the snowpack was essentially gone and the drought

was on.

Keep the sandbags handy, but if we have a warm, windy April like we did a few years ago, we’ll look back and wonder, “Why do we even listen to these people?”

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