Precipitation/snowpack/drought news: Good moisture yesterday in the Denver area, South Platte snowpack jumps from 58% to 59% of the thirty year average




Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for the 3-day precipitation map for the Denver area from the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. The two stations nearest Gulch Manor reported .28 and .47 inches of beautiful moisture.

I’ve also posted a thumbnail of the current snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Finally, I’ve posted the Ogive for the South Platte River basin high/low snowpack summary. Note the red lines showing the daily minimums and the 2002 drought year. April 2002 was a disaster for the snowpack with much of a low snowpack sublimating into the atmosphere. Snow/cold weather dances are still in order.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Pete Roper):

Falling trees pushed over by wind gusts reaching 64 mph tore down power lines in the Pueblo area, while nearly 2 feet of snow fell in the nearby foothills. Beulah and Rye both reported deep wet snow, while farther south an estimated 3 feet of snowfall was reported in Cuchara…

Walsenburg saw about 4 inches of snowfall, according to Ron Mercier, emergency dispatch communications director. Cuchara received about 3 feet of snow at the most, Mercier added…

Monarch Mountain ski resort reported 4 inches of new snow, which promoted a chain-law for commercial vehicles traveling over Monarch Pass…In Salida, a weather spotter reported 3 inches of snow…Canon City residents reported 4 inches of snow, which combined with overnight rain for 0.48 of an inch of moisture. In Custer County, Road and Bridge Department Foreman Dave Trujillo reported between 13 and 16 inches of snow in the hardest hit parts of the county, while lower totals ranged from 7 to 12 inches.

From KUNC (Kirk Siegler):

“Despite what we’re seeing outside my window [Tuesday] of a little snowfall which is most welcome, rest assured we’re very concerned about the conditions, and we are in a drought,” said Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water. As head of the largest water utility in the state, it’s Lochhead’s job to ensure that water from melting snow keeps making its way to the taps of 1.3 million customers – even in a drought – and even when the average snowpack levels statewide are about half where they should be…

Lochhead said his agency and its regional counterparts that make up the Front Range Water Council have yet to implement restrictions on water use. But that could change in the coming weeks. The main reason they haven’t already is because the last two years were wet and snowy.

“Our storages reservoirs are our savings account in Colorado,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water in Berthoud, the second largest water utility in the state and a member of the Council. Werner said Northern’s reservoirs are still about 25% above average, though like Lochhead, he’s worried about the long-term forecast. “We are in relatively good shape going into 2012, especially in comparison to 2002-2003 when we had the same kinds of numbers in terms of snowpack, but we didn’t have the same amounts of storage,” Werner said…

But even if it is approved, it wouldn’t happen for another decade. So for now, Jim Lochhead said he can only feel fortunate that, like Northern, Denver Water’s reservoirs are mostly full. “But we’re also reluctant to roll the dice on what might happen in 2013, so we really don’t want to spend our savings account and waste it,” Lochhead said.

From the Associated Press via (Wayne Harrison):

Aurora Water spokesman Greg Baker says destructive wildfires and an arid March have reduced expectations for this year’s water supply. The most severe drought in the state is in the Arkansas Basin where drought areas are reporting extreme conditions as a result of last summer’s Texas drought which also affected Colorado. In Fort Collins, March was the warmest in 124 years of record keeping. Warnings are also out for the Yampa/White Basin in northwestern Colorado due to lack of sufficient snowpack, and most of the northeastern plains are abnormally dry. The statewide snowpack was at 49 percent of average Tuesday.

State climatologist Nolan Doesken said even though reservoir levels are still strong and northeast Colorado soil moisture is still good, it’s early in the season for the state to be this warm and dry. “This is very concerning,” he said.

From KUSA (Blair Shiff):

“A lot of people have been comparing this year to 2002 and the difference is that we didn’t have the reservoir storage in 2002,” Mage Skordahl, with the Colorado Snow Survey Program, said. “2002 came off of multiple years of below-average snowpack and very little storage in the reservoirs and that is when you really start to get in trouble when you have multiple years of below-average [snowpack].” Skordahl also says if Colorado sees heavy spring rains, it will help make up for a drier winter.

From the Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

March, typically a snow-heavy month in the Colorado Rockies, averages between 25 and 26 inches of snow, according to Cory Gates of AspenWeather.Net. In 2012, it snowed 7 inches on March 1, a trace on March 2 and 1.25 inches on March 18, bringing the grand total to 8.25 inches, according to Gates’ records. Since local records have been kept, going back to 1934, the driest March on record was 1966, which saw 7.2 inches of snow, Gates said. So this March, with about an inch less of snow, would have been the driest on record.

It also was exceptionally warm for most of the month, which saw high temperature records fall on four days. March 31 hit 69 degrees in town, about a degree shy of the all-time highest recorded temperature for March. A total of 10 days in March saw temperatures break 60 degrees, “which is unprecedented and will never happen again in our lifetime,” Gates wrote in an email.

The Pacific Ocean is to blame for the lack of snow, Gates said. The pattern coming off the sea meant the Aspen area had a “ridge aloft” bringing lots of sunshine since March 18.

From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

Confirming what everyone in the high country already suspected, Monday’s preliminary data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Colorado Snow Survey office reveals the state’s snowpack at 50 percent of average. That’s the lowest beginning of April measurement since the survey began in 1968. It’s even lower than in 2002, when early April snowpack measured 52 percent of average, marking the apex of a lingering drought that parched Colorado. “I can tell you from being at the ski areas that it’s going backward fast,” said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River District.

Outside his Glenwood Springs office window, Pokrandt eyed the Colorado River, fed by a basin with snowpack measuring a meager 40 percent of last year and 50 percent of average. And the river was rushing — higher than normal for early April. “The runoff is starting early,” he said.

With wildfires in March and ski areas scraping to reach mid-April closing dates, the spring so far does not bode well for paddlers, fishermen and river lovers. Unless the snow hammer falls in late April and May — the next two weeks look warm and dry, according to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center — Colorado’s rivers will be trickling with extra-low flows by early summer…

“The reservoirs this year won’t be hit too hard,” said Pokrandt, adding that “lessons we learned” from 2002 will help water managers this summer. “Water providers might want to be quicker on the draw to implement water conservation measures. They waited too long in 2002, and the reservoirs got hit and we went into the following year in a big predicament.”

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