Colorado’s snowpack is peaking higher than usual — which brings spring flooding to mind |

Colorado’s snowpack is peaking higher than usual — which brings spring flooding to mind

Emergency managers are prepping for high spring runoff as a precaution, even as more snow piles on

Shannon Mullane
The Colorado Sun
Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun
First rays of sunshine hit Quandary Peak on a cold morning Thursday in Summit County.
Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun

Colorado’s snow season is nearing its typical peak with above-average snowpack, and water officials are beginning to worry about flooding and gauging potential reservoir releases. But in some places, the snow just keeps coming.

Each year, April marks the point in the season when the snowpack starts to reach its peak as temperatures warm and spring runoff begins. It’s also an important point for water officials, water users and even emergency managers: How high the snow piles up is a key indicator of water supply for the next year, but how fast it melts can have big impacts on flooding and seasonal irrigation.

“We do anticipate high water,” said Sgt. Todd Wheeler, emergency management coordinator for Moffat County in northwestern Colorado. “Will it be higher than normal? That remains to be seen.”

In the Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million people spread across seven Western states and 30 Native American tribes, the snowpack was above average as it reached its seasonal peak. 

In the Upper Colorado Region, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah, the snowpack usually peaks around April 8, and on Thursday, it was about 160% of the median from 1991 to 2020, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service data. It was even nearing the highest snowpack recorded since 1986. 

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