Snowpack news: The South Platte River basin — 151% of average

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Last fall Klaus Wolter said, at a meeting of the Water Availability Task Force, “We’ve never really had a dry winter with La Nina.” Water year 2011 is no exception. Monster snowpack all across the northern mountains while the San Juans are gaining against average. The Rio Grande looks to have a tough year but even they’ve come up 3% against average over the weekend.

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Water watchers know that the average peak is April 12. Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a look at the SNOTEL Basin Time Series Snowpack Summary Graphs. Today’s graph shows the highest peak value for the year so far.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

John Fusaro and Todd Boldt of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Fort Collins measured the snowpack in the Big Thompson and Poudre canyons Wednesday and Thursday and came back with unbelievable numbers — an average snow depth of 133 inches at Cameron Pass, the top of the Poudre. One measurement at that snowfield reached 161.5 inches, or almost 13.5 feet. At the highest field in the Big Thompson Canyon, the snow depth was 95 inches. “I’ve never seen that much snow at the end of April. Usually, the amount of snow starts to decline by this time of the year, but if it keep going like this we may be sent back up there at the end of May, and that’s never happened before,” Fusaro said Friday…

Perichino said the latest projections are that once the snowmelt starts, the Poudre River will flow at 6,0000 cubic feet per second, compared to 4,300 cfs when the river went out of its banks last spring. There is no place to put much, if any, of the expected runoff, he added. “We just hope there’s not a quick thaw along with thunderstorms like we had last year,” Perichino said…

Fusaro said the snow at Cameron Pass was almost too deep to measure in places. About two-thirds of the way up that field, he and Boldt found 161.5 inches of snow, and the measuring tube broke as they started to bring it back up. “We had to dig down 10 feet to get the rest of it. We were up there for the better part of two hours,” Fusaro said. The snow fields are marked with bright yellow signs on 8-foot iron posts. At the lower end of the Cameron Pass field, Fusaro said, they couldn’t find the signs. “We even took a metal detector with us, but it wasn’t good enough to find the signs. They were buried by too much snow,” he said.

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