From the NRCS via The Rio Blanco Herald-Times:
For the first time during 2016, statewide snowpack improved over the previous month as opposed to the declines that have occurred each month since Jan. 1, including in the Yampa and White River Basin.
April weather conditions yielded a 7 percent improvement in snowpack, which now stands at 104 percent of normal. Mountain precipitation across the state of Colorado during April was the best of the 2016 calendar year, at 110 percent of normal. Now, water year-to-date precipitation is exactly at 100 percent of normal.
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the snowpack and reservoir storage as of May 1 along the Yampa and White River drainage, the snowpack is at 106 percent of normal, is 224 percent of last year’s snowpack for the same date, is at 115 percent of the average reservoir storage level and is 120 percent of last year’s average reservoir storage level compared to last year on the same date.
Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor, illustrates how fortunate the Colorado water situation is.
“At this time last year, the water supply outlook was grim at best,” he said. “Colorado’s current snowpack and precipitation levels are right where we want to be this time of year. Elsewhere in the Western United States, seasonal snowpack during 2016 succumbed to early spring warming and did not recover as Colorado did from recent storms.”
The seven major mountain watersheds in Colorado all received 90 percent of normal April precipitation or better. Special mention is warranted in the Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande and combined Yampa, White and North Platte Basins because these areas received 120 percent of normal or better precipitation.
The seven major watersheds also have 90 percent of normal or better water year-to-date precipitation.
Snowpack metrics indicate that the North and South Platte River basins have the best snowpack in the state at 114 percent of normal. The Arkansas saw the greatest improvement in April, while the Upper Rio Grande and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basins saw little change.
It is fortunate those basins saw little change downward given that snowpack there is now 77 and 85 percent of normal respectively. Although not reflected in snowpack values, it is also fortunate that rain was abundant, most particularly in the Upper Rio Grande, which added to the greater water budget.
Statewide reservoir totals increased 1 percent since April 1, ending the month at 112 percent of normal, with declines occurring in the Rio Grande, Arkansas and combined Yampa, White and North Platte watersheds.
From KOAA.com (Jessi Mitchell):
The local Swift Water Rescue Team has a message about safety for everyone looking to make a splash.
Every year the reminder is the same; be careful near rivers and wear a life jacket if you are going to be getting in the water. As the snow pack starts to melt, it is leading to some very dangerous conditions.
The US Geological Survey shows the Arkansas River spiked by 600 cubic feet per second on Monday through Pueblo, deepening one stretch by a whole foot. Now running at nearly 900 cfs, taking on the water in the kayak course in particular will not be a walk in the park. “The kayak course…was designed for people who are used to kayaking or boating, who know what they’re doing and have more river experience,” explains PFD engineer Ryan Moran, who is a member of the SWRT. “This is not a place for just inner-tubing leisurely.”
The SWRT is already gearing up for a busy season. They have not had any river emergencies yet, but just last week two children drowned in northern Colorado. The local team keeps that in mind as families start to hit the shores without life jackets or shoes, fishing and climbing on treacherous rocks.
Moran says, “You may not know that an hour ago they released more water. You could be standing in what you thought was a safe place when it starts washing over you at that point and washes you off the rocks.”
Firefighters emphasize that parents teach their children water safety early on, and keep kids away from the worst of the waves. “As a parent myself, my children wonder why we can’t go play on the river, too, and I have to explain to them that’s just not safe,” says Moran. “We’ll go play some place in the water that is safe.”
The SWRT is currently in training mode, and say they expect to start getting emergency calls as the school year ends. City ordinance does require you to wear a certified life jacket any time you are in the rivers.