Central Colorado snowpack suffers
Ryan Summerlin January 9, 2012
No surprise: It’s dry out there.
The current snow drought in central Colorado has the Colorado River Basin – which includes Summit County – at 60 percent of average snowpack and 41 percent of last year’s snow totals for the same time last year.
Statewide, Colorado’s snowpack was 71 percent of average and 52 percent of last year’s readings as of January 1.
It’s the fourth-lowest New Year’s Day snowpack measured in the last 30 years, and the lowest since January 1, 2002, when the snowpack was at 65 percent of average. That year turned out to be a very dry one.
Other areas of the state are faring better than the Colorado Basin, with early season upslope storms in October and November keeping the South Platte basin at 80 percent of average as of January 1. The Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins have the highest snowpack in the state, at 96 and 92 percent of average, respectively. Last year, these two basins recorded well-below average snowfall.
Most of the western basins aren’t suffering as much as the Colorado Basin, but it’s still a slow start to winter’s snowfall for them. Snowpack ranges from 57 percent of average in the Yampa and White basins to 73 percent of average in both the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins and the North Platte Basin. By this time last year, those basins were at 145 percent of average in the Yampa and White and 144 percent of average in the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins.
Due to last spring’s above-average snowpack and subsequent runoff throughout most of the state, reservoir storage remains in good condition in Colorado, according to the National Resources Conservation Service, which issues monthly reports about the state’s snowpack. The Colorado Basin reservoirs are currently at 112 percent of average and 102 percent of storage at the same time last year.
Things may be looking up, though. The National Weather Service said the Gore and Elk mountains got an estimated 5 to 9 inches in this past weekend’s storm, and up to a foot fell at Schofield Pass.
The weather service also says drought conditions have eased in south central and southeastern Colorado, especially in the San Luis Valley, but there hasn’t been enough precipitation to make up for extremely dry conditions from 2010 through 2011.
La Nina conditions, in which storms tend to swing north, are expected to strengthen throughout the rest of the winter, the Associated Press reports.