Week-long storms should push snowpack above normal | VailDaily.com

Week-long storms should push snowpack above normal

WIth this week's storms continuing to drop wet snow on the valley, the local snow water equivalent was pushed above normal as of Tuesday.

VAIL — There's something fundamentally healthy about people who press their little noses against a west-facing window and pray for God to smack them with a big storm.

Your prayers will be answered all week. The storm hovering over the valley should be our guest through at least Friday afternoon.

Dennis Phillips is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. He's one of the folks who watches weather systems fly over his head on their way to us.

"This storm track has been favorable. Everyone in the north is getting pounded," Phillips said. "Areas from the Elk Range up to Wyoming will do just fine."

The National Weather Service forecast calls for snow every day through Saturday, when it's supposed to clear and temperatures reach the low to mid-20s.

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Phillips explained the three things needed for bunches of snow:

1. Lift

2. Moisture

3. Instability

Most weather systems move from west to east. If we're lucky, the storms that hit the Eagle River Valley tend to begin in the Pacific and bring all sorts of moisture with them.

That's certainly the case with this system, Phillips said.

This particular weather system started in the Pacific and is working its way through much of northern Colorado. It's bringing with it all kinds of moisture.

That means that to arrive in our area, as it did Sunday afternoon, it has to work its way up through the high deserts of Utah and Western Colorado to Vail Pass and the Continental Divide.

"It's all upslope. From the low elevation in the deserts, it's lifting up as it reaches the mountains," Phillips said.

That has a name: Orographic Life, a flow up the mountainsides.

Who gets whacked with how much depends on which way the storm is coming from, Phillips explained.

Aspen doesn't do as well sometimes with certain northern storms. Steamboat seems to get pounded no matter what direction the storm is coming from. Vail and Beaver Creek are partial to storms coming in from the west.

Above normal snowpack

The National Weather Service sees data about 10 days out. In those 10 days, Phillips said the storm tracks can change.

The weather in our spiral arm of the universe will humble a meteorologist. For example, Craig got 18 unexpected inches Monday.

As for this week's storms in the Vail Valley, this should be a good week.

"It's going to be a prolonged event," Phillips said.

It's also about the time of year weather professionals start keeping an eye on the snowpack and the water it contains. Colorado's snowpack acts like a massive white reservoir that stores water that we'll use through the summer.

For the Colorado River Basin, snow water equivalent is 122 percent of the overall median for this time of year.

"We're off to a good start for the year," said Diane Johnson with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

The Upper Colorado Basin, which is us, is 114 percent of the median.

Regionally, the Roaring Fork Valley is 122 percent of the median, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The snow water equivalent lines up like this at the three sites checked Tuesday afternoon the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District:

Vail Mountain: 7.5 inches, 95 percent of normal.

Copper Mountain: 6.5 inches, 114 percent of normal.

Fremont Pass: 7.2 inches, 99 percent of normal.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935.

Weather this week

Wednesday

Snow. Patchy blowing snow after 11 a.m. Widespread fog, mainly between 11 a.m and noon. High near 28. West wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

Wednesday Night

Snow. Low around 17. West wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible.

Thursday

Snow. High near 22. West wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80 percent.

Thursday Night

Snow likely, mainly before 11 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 11. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Friday

A 30 percent chance of snow. Partly sunny, with a high near 19.

Friday Night

A slight chance of snow before 11 p.m. Partly cloudy, with a low around 6.

Saturday

Mostly sunny, with a high near 21.

Saturday Night

Mostly cloudy, with a low around 17.

Sunday

Mostly cloudy, with a high near 29.

Sunday Night

A chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 26.

Monday

A chance of snow. Cloudy, with a high near 32.