Snowpack news

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What a beautiful snow yesterday. The view from my office at Denver Wastewater was limited to a few hundred feet for much of the morning and early afternoon by swirling blowing wet snowfall. The bicycle ride home took me over twice the normal time and my bike’s derailleurs froze up (I could not shift any longer) just as I started the climb out of the South Platte River bike path up through Highlands towards Berkeley Hill. The back wheel froze after I splashed through the slush in the gutter at the end of my alley. I had to drag the bike the last few steps to the garage. I was digging it.

Meanwhile, here’s some snowpack news from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Any function related to government and local schools, including sporting events, were canceled, and a few local businesses also closed early. After the storm’s initial shock, people were looking forward to its benefits.

“It’s a good start to this storm if all you’re worried about is water, which we are now,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which oversees water shares in the region for municipalities and farmers. The South Platte River Basin, where Loveland is located, was 15 percent less than normal for snowpack going into this storm, Werner said. The district still was calculating how much water came with the snowstorm, but Werner said it looked promising. One inch of water in the conservancy district’s service area is worth about 60,000 acre feet of water, which would fill up half of Carter Lake, Werner said.

The region has a diverse snowpack, with most of the local high country looking decent for snow-water content this year. The Colorado River Basin, which Northern Water depends on for Colorado Big Thompson water shares on the Western Slope, was slightly higher than average for snowpack Thursday, unlike the Eastern Slope in Northern Colorado…

No matter the winter snow totals, a wet March usually makes or breaks the area when it comes to possible drought conditions through the summer. Storms in Colorado throughout the week, both Tuesday and Thursday, were no exception, said Ron Brinkman, general manager at the Greeley-Loveland Irrigation Co. Greeley-Loveland Irrigation manages water flowing through Lake Loveland, Boyd Lake and Horseshoe Lake, as well as a network of canals that flow through Loveland. “The big thing about this storm is that we are getting it on the plains,” Brinkman said. “This storm in general, it’s all over the Eastern Slope. It’s going to be great.” Brinkman said most local farmers from here to the Nebraska state line had their fields open and ready for planting their summer crops. All they needed was some moisture to move forward because the top 6 inches of soil was bone dry. If significant moisture didn’t materialize, they would have put early calls on local rivers for irrigation water, which impacts the entire irrigation season, as well as water levels at local lakes and reservoirs, Brinkman said. “This is going to eliminate the need for really early water,” Brinkman said.

Early calls on the Big Thompson River mean less chance that Lake Loveland, Boyd Lake and Horseshoe Lake fill or stay full, which happened last year, Brinkman said. Early calls went out on river water and the lakes weren’t filled until August, two months late from normal years. Then, in late summer, Lake Loveland emptied out again as the needs for irrigation water went up, which closed the beach early.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The approximately 6 inches of snow that fell on Fort Collins contained about 6/10 of an inch of water, said state Climatologist Nolan Doesken of the CSU-based Colorado Climate Center. Doesken said the storm was the biggest, moisture-wise, of the winter season. “It buys a little time, takes the edge off for a week or so,” Doesken said Thursday. “This is a better-than-it-was snow. It isn’t making up for what we haven’t gotten.”

More coverage from the Denver Post:

Spring snow is as much as 25 percent water, and parts of the foothills recorded a foot and a half of snow. But the National Weather Service recorded just 0.12 inches of precipitation by 5 p.m. at Denver International Airport, leaving the area far under normal for the year.

More coverage from the Greeley Tribune:

“If we could get one of these once a week until the first of May, we’d be in pretty good shape,” said Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at Colorado State University…

“The nice thing about late, spring snowstorms is that they melt right into the ground,” he added. And it not only brought moisture to the eastern plains, but dumped 1-2 feet of new snow in the mountains…

Jim Cooksey of Cooksey Farms in Roggen said there was a good 6 inches of snow in southeast Weld and it continued to snow by midafternoon. “It’s pretty nice,” Cooksey said, noting winter wheat “was starting to hurt pretty good and the mites were starting to move in.” He said if it stays cool and more storms come, the wheat will respond and while that might not kill the insects “it should certainly slow them down and let the wheat out-grow them.”

Thursday’s storm, and one earlier in the week that hammered Wyoming and points north and east, broke the warm and dry weather pattern that has dominated the region this winter, Doesken said. “There may be two or three more of these storms to come in the next few days and that will change us to a cool, unsettled weather pattern instead of what we’ve been having and that’s good,” Doesken said.

More coverage from the Erie Review:

Lafayette Public Works Director Doug Short said that while Boulder County residents have experienced unseasonably warm temperatures and dry conditions during the past two months, the mountain snowpack — responsible for the bulk of the spring and summer water supply — is only slightly below normal. And, particularly given the mountain snowfall forecast throughout the week, Short doesn’t expect any water shortages this summer. “We’re just continuing to monitor the mountain snowpack. We get reports and the beginning of every month,” Short said. “The March 1 snow data looks OK. It was somewhere around 90 percent of normal. “Just because there’s not a lot of snowfall down here, it’s not a big concern. We’re looking at the mountain snowpack to see what kind of spring runoff we can expect.”[…]

Even if Colorado had received a significantly low mountain snowpack this season, most communities still have adequate water supplies held over from last year’s heavy runoff to accommodate municipal, commercial and residential needs. “We have plenty of carry-over from last year, and we have 70 percent water rights at Baseline Reservoir,” Short said. “We’ve taken Waneka Lake down. It’s a backup reservoir. It’s not normally used.”

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