Yep, it’s dry: Snowpack at 71% of average |

Yep, it’s dry: Snowpack at 71% of average

Robert Allen
Summit Daily News

SUMMIT COUNTY – With less snowfall this winter, snowpack for the end of January is about 71 percent of average in the local Blue River Basin area, according to data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Colorado River headwaters region runoff forecasts range from about 65 to 75 percent of normal, said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor with the Conservation Service.

“It’s definitely a noticeably dry year when they get that low,” he said. “Now that it’s about 60 percent through the winter snow-accumulation season, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for improvement.”

He said El Nino is likely to blame for this winter’s weather patterns.

“Those January storms were pretty much a classic pattern for what we expect (with an El Nino system) that really pounds California, Arizona and New Mexico,” Gillespie. “We get lucky in the San Juans, but it doesn’t really get north of there.”

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But the situation could be worse if reservoir levels weren’t as high. At the end of December 2009, the Dillon Reservoir level was 107 percent of average, according to the NRCS website at

Data on January 2010 is to be released today.

“There may be decent reservoir storage to alleviate some of the shortages down the road in the summer months,” Gillespie said.

He said the Blue River Basin by Feb. 1 is the driest its been since 1991.

National Weather Service observer Rick Bly, who lives and records snowfall in the town of Breckenridge, said exactly 14 inches of snow fell in January – down from an average of 22.4

“Right now, due to a good October, it’s about 76 percent (of average),” he said of this season’s snowfall. “But December through January were only about 56 percent of average.”

February snowfall amounts range from 2.1 inches in 1982 to 84.5 inches in 1893, “so there’s a pretty wide range of what to look forward to,” Bly said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor lists Summit and Eagle counties as “abnormally dry,” but none of the state is in a drought, according to

Next month is predicted to have an average level of precipitation, with slight possibility for above-average precipitation in the next three months, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

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