Snowpack/runoff news: The snow just keeps coming

A picture named snowpackcolorado05242022

From New West (Alan Best):

Normally, snowpack in the Yampa River Basin, where Buffalo Pass is located, would be reduced to 55 percent of its maximum moisture content. This year, the basin was at 154 percent the week before Memorial Day.

“Most of the water remains up high,” says Gillespie. “We get these brief dry periods of three or four days and we will start to see the melt occur, and then we see another storm and we rebuild what has been melted off. The net effect is that we are prolonging what we have out there in the snowpack later into spring. And now we are approaching June. This is definitely much later than we would like to be in terms of melt proceeding.”

Cameron Pass, between Steamboat Springs and Fort Collins, also had a record snowpack in early May, while other regions southward to Vail and Aspen had deep snow but not necessarily records. Southern Colorado, as is common in La Niña years, has had subpar snow, with the Sangre de Cristo Range at just 50 percent of average…

The most significant problem [for Routt County] has been landslides blocking local roads, the result of soil being saturated by the intense rains of May. “Everywhere you go you can see a slope that is sloughing or has slid.”

Eighty miles south, authorities in the Vail area are also tracking mudslides. “I worry about the potential mudslide and flood-prone areas of Eagle County,” says Barry Smith, director of emergency management for Eagle County. “It’s sort of my job.”[…]

“I think it’s one of those ‘duh’ moments,” says Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservation District. “Look at all the water that is going downstream, on both sides of the mountain (Continental Divide).” That is, says Werner, water that could legally stay in Colorado – if it had the necessary dams. “We need to put some more buckets out there, and these are good years to illustrate why we need buckets.”

From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

Almost 5,000 cubic feet of water per second gushed down from the western mountains [last summer], flooding the [Cache la Poudre] river, making trouble for bridges and roads in its path, enveloping streets and inching dangerously close to homes. It was the first time the river stretched its banks with such gusto since 1999, when the Poudre hit its second-highest flow in Greeley of 6,210 cfs. This year, all predictions are that the river will again hit that high point, especially with the rising snowpack in the mountains. Coupled with the rainfall and high temperatures of a typical Colorado spring, most are expecting a mess this year…

In a typical year, flooding occurs mostly in the month of June when the winter snowpack melts under high heat and is helped along the winding river banks by spring rains. But it’s also hit in early May and lasted through June. “I’d say we’re going to start watching closely around Memorial Day and anticipate peak flows will pass by the end of June,” said Dave Bauer, Weld County’s engineer, who must cover extra ground with the confluence of both the Poudre and South Platte rivers east of Greeley. “Last year the high flows continued through the first two weeks of June.”

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