Blizzards fill plains reservoirs
January 14, 2007
DENVER ” The blizzards blanketing the plains may have a silver lining.
For only the second time, Denver Water’s reservoirs gained storage during the month of December, thanks to the back-to-back snowstorms. The last time that happened was when the 1982 Christmas blizzard hit the Front Range.
“I don’t know if I can recall a year where we’ve had this kind of trend,” said Mike Gillespie, a snow-survey supervisor for the Natural Resource Conservation Winter Weather.
After years of drought, the two river basins on the Eastern Plains are both well ahead of the rest of the state, which averages 98 percent.
The Arkansas is 134 percent of the 30-year average and the South Platte is 128 percent. A week ago Denver Water said it had 89 percent of its average volume, compared to 81 percent average for the same date.
Agricultural officials, meanwhile, are still counting the cost in thousands of cattle lost to the storms.
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“We’ve got a fairly expansive area of the Front Range not exactly known for snowpack actually having snowpack,” said state climatologist Nolan Doesken. he said. But he said it’s no guarantee the trend will continue. “If there were no more storms for this area, we’d probably be better off than we were during some of the worst drought years, but it doesn’t exactly keep us out of the woods,” he said.
Municipal water users also remain skeptical. “You look out your window and it might look like things are in good shape but it might be a very different story in February,” said Ed Pokorney, utility director for Aurora Water.
The outlook is good for northern plains farmers.
“In the northern part of Colorado, we expect the current snow cover to really help winter-wheat farmers, and they’ve had some pretty tough years,” said Troy Bredenkamp, executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau.