Vail Valley, Colorado snowpack holding steady
VAIL, Colorado On the first day of spring, snowpack in the Vail Valley and Colorado is at 99 percent of average, and projections for run-off have dipped with the warm and dry weather of the past few weeks.Its not encouraging. Its definitely been a warm and dry month, said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the federal Natural Resources Soil Conservation Service. There are definitely some increasing concerns on the Eastern Plains about drought-like conditions and emerging drought issues in some parts of the state, Gillespie said.And things dont appear to be getting better anytime soon.The long-term forecast doesnt bode well for accumulating more snowpack or maintaining what we have, said local water commissioner Scott Hummer. Wednesdays high temperature in Dillon was a relatively warm 49 degrees, and Hummer said those conditions are causing the snow to simply evaporate, rather than melting and running off into local streams. The 90-day outlook is for above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation, he added.Local streams are running near average historic levels, but Hummer said high flows in the Eagle River suggest that the spring snowmelt is beginning early.Snowpack in the Colorado River Basin is the highest in the state, at 105 percent of average. But in other parts of the state, levels have dropped to 20 percent below average.Were seeing further deterioration … And the outlook is for more warm and dry weather, Gillespie said.Of special concern is the South Platte Basin, at 86 percent of normal as of March 19. Denver Water relies on the South Platte as one of its key supply sources. The drier the South Platte, the more water Denver needs to take from Dillon Reservoir during the summer.Its not looking real rosy for water managers throughout the state, especially in the South Platte Basin, Hummer said.Without significant precipitation for the South Platte, the draw on High Country reservoirs like Dillon could come earlier in the year than usual, he said.But statewide reservoir levels remain in good shape, with plenty of storage, even under a dry scenario. A short-term change, with a return to more wintry weather, is on tap soon, said meteorologist Klaus Wolter, a climate expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.A storm forecast to roll in early next week could drop up to a foot of snow on the High County, with another potential blast of precipitation late in the week, then a return to dry conditions for the rest of MarchWolter, who earlier this winter predicted a warm and dry pattern for March, said the forecast beyond that is up in the air.April is the month to watch. With La Nia (cooler than average sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific), it can go either way, he said.The statewide snowpack figures are reflected by ski area base depths at local resorts. Even without significant snowfall in recent weeks, the snow has been holding steady, with no big melt-off at higher elevations.