Snowpack news: San Luis Valley hit hard by storm — the Valley Courier

Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal February 24, 2015 via the NRCS
Westwide SNOTEL snow water equivalent as a percent of normal February 24, 2015 via the NRCS

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

After unseasonably warm temperatures and extended periods with no precipitation, this past weekend began to make up for some of the winter the Valley had missed so far.

Weekend snowfall reports ranged from 8 inches in Alamosa to nearly a foot farther south in Conejos County and 39 inches of new snow at the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

As snow began to pile up throughout the day on Sunday , area schools started announcing closures for Monday. By late Sunday all of the public schools in the San Luis Valley had declared a snow day for Monday. Adams State University and Trinidad State Junior College also called off classes on Monday, and some businesses and governmental agencies were closed…

However, skies are expected to be overcast all week, and the chance of precipitation will increase from 10-20 percent midweek to 30 percent by Thursday night. Friday and Saturday will bring about 30 percent chance of precipitation , according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures will also remain colder this week, with high temperatures in the mid 30’s . The Valley will not likely surpass 40 degrees again until Saturday.

The San Luis Valley and surrounding mountains were under a hazardous weather watch through most of Monday, and avalanche warnings are in effect in the mountains and backcountry at least through noon today, Feb. 24. The

Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a warning for the Sangre de Cristo,

Southern San Juan and Northern San Juan Mountains through midday Tuesday , due to the significant amounts of new snow and winds creating dangerous conditions in the backcountry of Colorado’s southern mountains. Wolf Creek Pass was closed on the west side for avalanche control for a time on Monday but had reopened by midday. Avalanche control was planned on Monarch Monday night.

All mountain and high Valley areas will have hazardous travel conditions because of the icy and snowpacked roads, and motorists are urged to use caution.

“Drivers are cautioned to drive slow and be patient,” City of Alamosa officials urged.

“Our crews are set to do their jobs,” Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shailen Bhatt said. “We are asking for the same level of preparedness from drivers. We cannot stress enough the need for folks to know the conditions, prepare their vehicles with good snow tires and topped up fluids, and drive for the conditions.”

He added, “Travelers should check http://www.cotrip. org before heading out.”

Colorado State Patrol was busy responding to accidents throughout the recent snowstorm but accident statistics were not available by press time Monday. Most involved vehicles sliding off the road. CSP urged motorists to take it slow and stay off the slick roads unless absolutely necessary.

On the bright side, in addition to more powder at the ski area and a snow day for school children, this weekend’s snowstorm brought a boost to the area’s lagging snowpack. By Monday the snowpack had risen to 67 percent of normal basin wide, which still offers plenty of room for improvement.

Some areas of the San Luis Valley were showing more positive numbers. For example, Cochetopa Pass was at 134 percent of normal snowpack and Medano Pass at 100 percent, which bodes well for streams at the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve this summer.

From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

The blue light, announcing 6 or more inches of snow, lit up on top of Tenderfoot Mountain Monday night following a weekend storm that dropped 17 inches of new snow at Monarch Mountain and 5-8 inches around Salida.

The fluffy, dry snow resulted in 0.55 inch of precipitation in Salida.

Monarch now has a mid-mountain base of 70 inches, and the new powder bumped the resort’s numbers for Monday.

“We definitely had higher numbers today,” Jessie Smith, marketing coordinator said. “School having a snow day helped as well.”

Salida schools canceled classes for a rare snow day.

“I’ve been here for 5 years, and it’s the first one I know about,” said Salida School District Superintendant Darryl Webb.

“I talked to school board member Kyle Earhart, who has been around for 9 years, and this is the first one he remembers as well.”

Webb said the school district doesn’t have a hard and fast rule for deciding when to call a snow day for the schools.

“We contact the county first,” Webb said, “and Evalyn Parks (district transportation director) and I will drive the roads early, to see what they are like, before making a decision.”

Webb said in the case of this snow day, they decided the night before after hearing the forecast for snow to continue falling through noon.

Webb said the district has extra days built into its calendar for just such days, so the students won’t have to make up any days at the end of the year.

“Unless we get a lot more snow,” he said.

The National Weather Service has forecast a hazardous weather outlook through the coming weekend for south central and southeast Colorado.

A new weather system will begin Wednesday evening and last through the weekend, bringing a chance of snow Wednesday through Friday and significantly colder temperatures Thursday and Friday.

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