Snowpack level remains at two-thirds of average |

Snowpack level remains at two-thirds of average

Cliff Thompson

April’s showers – snow and rain – haven’t broken the grip of the drought facing Eagle County.

Last week’s snow and rain increased the snowpack in the Colorado River basin 6 percentage points, to 67 percent of average. In Eagle County, the high elevation snow survey site at Fremont Pass east of Camp Hale, which are the headwaters of the Eagle River, caught more precipitation and the snowpack bumped up to 85 percent of average. But that’s not expected to last long.

“The whole northwest corner of the state is dry,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resource Conservation Service. “The colder weather and the little moisture we’ve been able to get has allowed the snowpack to hang in there at 60 to 70 percent of average. It’s better than having it melt out early.”

That’s what happened during the drought of 2002, the worst in 300 years. Warmer-than-normal temperatures caused the snowpack to melt nearly a month early.

Snowpack supplies 80 percent of the water used in the state. Current snowpack levels are consistent with the snowpack levels in 2002.

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This year, what is different is the amount of rain and snow that has fallen this spring. It’s far wetter than 2002, when a total of just 0.13 inches of precipitation fell in April, May and June.

The cooler temperatures last week slowed the melt of the snowpack. The Eagle River at Avon was flowing at 204 cubic-feet-per-second Monday, which is 60 percent of the 331 cubic-feet-per-second average.

The next precipitation here is expected to hit Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Forecaster Paul Frisbee said the storm approaching from the northwest has the potential to dump more snow here, but it’s not yet clear how much.

Warmer-than-normal temperatures are predicted after the storm moves east, he said.

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