Spring storm packs a wallop | VailDaily.com

Spring storm packs a wallop

Cliff Thompson

This year it happened just a day early and, for a change, it was largely welcome. Up to a quarter-inch of rain in the valleys and four inches of wet snow in East Vail – more at higher elevations – dampened wildfire danger and perhaps even bolstered water supplies in the driest year on record.

“I love it,” said Avon weather watcher Frank Doll. “This is the driest ever.”

By Doll’s measurements in Avon, which he has made for more than 20 years, 7.58 inches of moisture have fallen since November 2001. Slightly more than a quarter inch of moisture came with the latest rain and snow.

“In a typical year we get 12 to 15 inches from November to April,” he said.

Annually, at least until the last four years of lower-than-normal precipitation, Doll said Avon gets 20 to 22 inches of moisture.

National Weather Service records show MInturn received 0.21 inches of moisture from the storm.

Clouds and cold weather yielded to warmer temperatures and clearing skies around noon Friday, but the slushy snow, rain and sleet returned in the afternoon.

Warmer and drier weather is expected for the next 10 days, forecasts indicate.

One area where the the snow was not welcome was on Interstate 70 at Vail Pass. The highway there become an automotive skating rink with up to 8 inches of snow and ice. The pass was closed for two hours while accidents were cleared.

National Weather Service maps show the precipitation resulted from upper-level low pressure hanging over Colorado. The moisture pushed as far south as the parched San Juan mountains in the southwestern part of the state, where snowpack is only 6 percent of normal.

Grand Junction received a tenth of an inch of rain and the Grand Mesa, 2 inches of snow. In Summit County, Frisco received a trace of snow while Breckenridge received 6 inches. A whopping 13 inches fell along the higher elevations of the Front Range.

The snow helped a little to bolster the state’s remaining snowpack that feeds surface streams and groundwater supplies. The snowpack is now at a historic low of 19 percent of normal statewide. More than 450 wildfires have already been reported, a number more typical of an entire fire season than for this early in the year.

Doll said the chance of of getting enough moisture to make up the deficit is virtually nil.

“We just don’t get that much rain, ever,” he said.

Colorado is in its fourth and worst year of less-than-normal precipitation. Wildfire danger dipped with the moisture but it will continue to be extreme virtually state-wide, depending on elevation. Some higher areas remain snow-covered.

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