Storms bring serious snowpack
December 2, 2005
SUMMIT COUNTY – The blustery November storms that delivered a surplus of early season freshies to resorts also boosted the snowpack to impressive levels across Summit County.”The snowpack at all five sites is looking good,” said Scott Hummer, Blue River Basin water commissioner for the State Engineer’s Office. The water content of the snowpack at the Fremont Pass site was 200 percent of the historic average as of Dec. 1, Hummer said. The Copper Mountain site was at 183 percent, Hoosier Pass at 170 percent, Summit Ranch (in the Lower Blue) at 169 percent and Grizzly Peak at 168 percent. Together, the five sites averaged 178 percent of average moisture content, raising hopes for abundant spring runoff to fill the state’s reservoirs.”What’s really interesting is the reversal between the northern and southern parts of the state in the past few years,” Hummer said. The precipitation pattern has flip-flopped from the previous two or three years, with the mountains of southwest Colorado remaining extremely dry so far this autumn, he said.
The snowpack moisture content for the entire Colorado River Basin stood at 128 percent of average as of Dec. 1. By contrast, the Upper Rio Grande Basin was only at 23 percent of average, and the San Juan, San Miguel and Dolores system was at 28 percent of average. The snowpack reading at Wolf Creek Pass was 23 percent of average, with even more drastic deficits at lower elevation sites in the San Juans – 6 percent of average at Mancos and 5 percent at Vallecito Reservoir.Hummer said it’s been at least eight years since snowpack levels stood so far above average in early December, and a snapshot of snowfall tallies at a couple of local ski areas support that observation.The official National Weather Service station near Dillon Reservoir registered 22.5 inches of snow for the month, 7.43 inches more than the historic average, based on records dating back to 1909. The water equivalent in that snow was 1.6 inches, well above the average of 1 inch. The biggest single dump in November came back on Nov. 5, when 6 inches of snow fell at the Dillon gauge.
Temperatures at the Dillon site ranged all the way from a balmy 58 degrees (Nov. 11) to a frigid 8 degrees below zero (Nov. 28). The average high for the month was just below average at 40.1 degrees (40.9 degrees average), while the average low temperature was well above average for the third month in a row, at 12.6 degrees (9.7 degrees average).At Breckenridge, the official National Weather Service total for the month was 47 inches of snow – the third-best since record-keeping started in 1889, said Rick Bly, who takes the daily readings in his back yard downtown. The biggest November ever was in 1898, with 59 inches. The 1979 measurement holds the number two spot with 49 inches, Bly said.For October and November, the first two months of the statistical weather year, snowfall at Breckenridge is 207 percent of normal. November was the third month in a row with above-normal precipitation.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had that happen. Let’s hope it keeps up,” Bly said.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13627, or at email@example.com.