Snowpack news: Colorado Springs enjoyed a good January, Durango not so much #COdrought

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Andrea Sinclair):

Above average snowfall in January in Colorado Springs and heavy snow in the mountains is helping lessen the impacts of drought and has brought snowpack levels near normal.

Colorado Springs got 13.6 inches of snow in January, compared to the average snowfall for the month of 5.6 inches, according to the National Weather Service. That’s good news in a winter that brought below average snowfall and bitter cold in December. The 2.9 inches of snow that fell in December is about half the normal 5.7 inches, according to the weather service…

According to the weather service, the Jan. 4 snowfall record was broken when three inches of snow were reported at the Colorado Springs airport. The previous record for that date was 1.9 inches in 1983. The 101-year-old daily snowfall record for Jan. 31 was obliterated when Colorado Springs got 3.5 inches on Friday…

After two years of dreadfully dry conditions declared for most of Colorado, Lehermeier said the drought status was all but removed for the region. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 25 percent of the state is free of drought, while nearly 75 percent is abnormally dry – the least severe drought measure. With the exception of a portion of southeast Colorado that remains in severe to exceptional drought, Colorado managed to bounce back from a 100 percent drought status a year ago. Exceptional drought is the most severe level.

Meanwhile January was one of the warmest and driest on record around Durango. Here’s a report from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

The wind-driven rain and snow that pushed into the San Juan Mountains late Thursday to bring welcome relief to a January that ranks as one of the driest doesn’t alter the long-term outlook for Southwest Colorado, experts say.

January in Durango also was warmer than the historical average. National Weather Service records show that the average high temperature in Durango in January from 1894 to 2010 was 39 degrees. In the month just gone by, all but three days saw a maximum of at least 40 degrees, with nine days at 50 or more.

Subpar precipitation that dates to a year ago and the lack of any substantial moisture in the month that ended Friday have ranchers wringing their hands.

“I can’t remember any time that has been as dry,” said Pat Greer, a fourth-generation rancher who has hay and cattle on land homesteaded by his family in Marvel in 1907. “We got fair moisture back in September, but the wind came along and pulled it all out of the ground…

The essential element for the second annual Winter Festival at Mesa Verde National Park – snow – was missing, so the event – two Saturdays of outdoor activities – has been canceled.

The rain and snow that fell Thursday and Friday and the precipitation from a weaker front expected to arrive Monday and later this week, have been a pleasant change from the clear, sunny skies during most of January.

A high-pressure ridge that has sat off the Pacific Coast for a year is partially responsible for dry conditions in Southwest Colorado, said Jim Daniels, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The high-pressure ridge blocks storms or shunts them to the north…

In spite of break-through storms, the long view of agencies that monitor weather and climate is that continued or increasing dryness will dog the southwest corner of Colorado for several months.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service report on snowpack and reservoir storage for December found the snowpack in the Animas, San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel drainage at 76 percent of normal…

A National Integrated Drought Information System map showed that from Jan. 1 to 26, La Plata County received 1/100th to 1/10th of an inch of precipitation. January’s historical average is 1.12 inches of moisture, as measured at Durango-La Plata County Airport. Durango typically receives more.

A map from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center shows southern La Plata County as an area where drought development is likely.

The Wednesday-Thursday storm dropped 8 inches of snow at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, which had received only 9 inches through Jan. 29.

In contrast, a story in The Durango Herald almost a year ago about historic snowfall at Purgatory revealed that the 38-year average snowfall in January was 49 inches.

In Hesperus, where Pam Snyder has been measuring snow since 1999, January accumulations have declined since 2005, with the exception of two years.

The last four years, particularly, have seen scant snow in January. In 2011, Snyder recorded one-half inch; the next two years saw 7.2 and 7.25 inches, respectively. This year, she found ¼ inch in her gauge.

Aspen caught the Pineapple Express last week. Here’s a report from Karl Herchenroeder writing for The Aspen Times. Here’s an excerpt:

Aspen Skiing Co. reported 24 inches of snowfall in a 24-hour period Friday morning, and another 8 to 12 inches was expected by 5 a.m. today…

With above-average snowfall for every month this season, 2013-14 is far outpacing the city’s 151-inch yearly average. This storm alone dropped more snow than all of January 2013, when 18 inches were recorded. Longtime resident Jim Markalunas, who has records dating back to 1934, said this storm is “a biggie,” but it won’t be the biggest. The most memorable snowstorm, he said, took place in March 1965, when 38 inches fell in a two-day period and the Tompkins Hardware store collapsed. Another 22 inches fell a few days later, totaling 60 inches in a span of five days…

He said it’s important to note that the snow in this storm has a water content of 8 percent, which is much lighter than snowfall in March. Another memorable storm, he said, came in February 1936, when 72 inches fell in a two-day span.

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