Colorado experts to update snowpack, flood outlook |

Colorado experts to update snowpack, flood outlook

File--In this file photograph taken on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, on Berthoud Pass near Winter Park, Colo., Brian Domonkos, left, the Colorado Snow Survey supervisor, writes notes while Mike Ardison, a hydrologic technician, takes a measurement of the snow at the Berthoud Summit Snotel area. Scientists from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service conducted the annual first snow survey for the year on the top of Berthoud Pass to determine upcoming water supplies for the state. Colorado water officials are getting an update on mountain snowpack on Tuesday, March 17, when they meet in Denver to look at potential flooding threats from the spring runoff. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Kathryn Scott Osler, file)
AP | The Denver Post

DENVER — Colorado water officials will get an update on mountain snowpack and an early look at potential flooding threats from spring runoff Tuesday.

State task forces on water availability and on floods are holding a joint meeting to hear reports on weather forecasts, snow levels and the possibility of flooding when spring arrives in the High Country and the snow begins to melt.

Colorado’s snowpack is closely watched because it provides water for four major river systems that originate in the state: the Colorado, the Platte, the Arkansas and the Rio Grande.

The Colorado River is under especially close scrutiny because it helps supply California, which is in the midst of a historic drought. The most recent assessment available showed 40 percent of California was in an exceptional drought, the driest of five categories used by the federal government’s U.S. Drought Monitor. Nearly 28 percent was in an extreme drought, the second-driest category.

In Colorado, the snowpack in the mountains and valleys that directly feed the Colorado River was 89 percent of the long-term average Tuesday. In three other Colorado basins that eventually feed into the Colorado River, the snowpack was 72 to 79 percent of average.

East of the Continental Divide, snowpack in the basin that feeds the South Platte was average, while the North Platte River basin was at 85 percent. The North Platte flows north into Wyoming before turning east into Nebraska, where it joins the South Platte to form the Platte River.

The Arkansas River basin had 96 percent of average snowpack, and the Upper Rio Grande basin had 77 percent.

Rain or extended warm spells in springtime can hasten the spring runoff and trigger floods by putting more snowmelt into Colorado’s rivers and streams than they can handle.

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