Spring snow boosts Roaring Fork | SummitDaily.com

Spring snow boosts Roaring Fork

Scott Condon
pitkin county correspondent

ASPEN ” A surge of spring snow is expected to push the Roaring Fork River’s peak runoff this year to within a splash of average.

The Roaring Fork River’s flow is expected to hit 5,900 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Glenwood Springs, according to the National Weather Service’s Colorado Basin River Forecast Center. The center noted that the Roaring Fork’s peak typically falls between June 3 and 18.

“The timing of the peak flow is always hard to predict because of the temperatures,” said Tom Pagano, a water supply forecaster with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. In other words, tell him how warm it will be this month and he’ll tell you when the river will peak.

The peak runoff flow is easier to forecast because it is based on snowpack levels. Last year the Roaring Fork experienced an odd runoff season because warm temperatures struck in March. The river’s hydrology chart resembled a roller coaster in April and May. The Roaring Fork hit a rather paltry peak of 3,550 cfs on June 8.

If the forecast holds true, that will increase by about 66 percent this year.

The average runoff is 6,150 cfs at Glenwood Springs, so this year’s forecasted level is within 5 percent of normal.

Snowpack levels soared in the high peaks around Aspen when storms rolled through this past Friday and Saturday. On May 5, the snowpack on Independence Pass was 7 percent below average. Yesterday it was 5 percent above average, according to NRCS statistics.

The Roaring Fork basin as a whole, which includes the Crystal and Fryingpan drainages, went from 12 percent above average before the weekend to 25 percent above on Monday.

Pagano, who helps forecast runoff in 235 basins throughout the West, said the common theme this year is “extremes.” Parts of Arizona “look like Ireland” because they have received so much moisture this winter, he said. In contrast, parts of the Northwest received less than one-third of their typical snowpack.

Anglers and river runners can find flow forecasts for their favorites waters in Colorado by visiting http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov.

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