#Snowpack #Runoff news: May Precipitation and High Elevation Snowpack Offers Encouraging Late Spring Conditions — NRCS

Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Brian Domokos):

May’s weather could not have suited Colorado’s water supply better. A steady pattern of cool wet weather systematically hit Colorado almost as if by plan, providing moisture to the watersheds that needed it most. The combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins fared the best this month receiving 154 percent of normal precipitation followed by the Rio Grande at 144 percent. The only watershed to miss the average precipitation mark ta the end May was the South Platte at 90 percent of normal precipitation. Even the Gunnison benefited at 123 percent of normal precipitation and with snowpack at 209 percent of normal, this basin is slightly better than the rest of Colorado.


“Remaining snowpack across the state is near 200 percent of normal and poised to provide adequate runoff into early summer” remarked Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor. The majority of remnant snowpack in Colorado exists in the northern mountains, predominantly above 10,000 feet in watersheds such as the South Platte and Upper Colorado. As of Friday morning Tower SNOTEL still had greater than 6 feet of snow depth remaining, down from nearly 10 feet in mid-May. Although more sparsely distributed, snowpack in the southern mountains of Colorado, such as in the San Juan Mountains above 11,000 feet, is greater than normal for this time of year.

Reservoir storage is down this month due to decreases in the Gunnison and Upper Rio Grande. With reductions of 20 and 12 percent respectively, these two basins were the only two watersheds in the state to experience decreases greater than 10 percent. However, at the beginning of June statewide reservoir storage is currently at 108 percent of normal down from 112 percent on May 1st.

Streamflow forecasts for the remainder of the runoff season deviate from current snowpack values and range from 52 percent of average for Muddy Creek below Paonia Reservoir to 130 percent of average for the South Platte River below Cheesman Lake.


For more detailed information about individual Colorado watersheds or supporting water supply related information, refer to the Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report or go to the Colorado Snow Survey website at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/co/snow/

Or contact Karl Wetlaufer, Colorado Snow Survey Assistant Supervisor at Karl.Wetlaufer@co.usda.gov or 720-544-2853.

More snowpack news from the Associated Press via TheDenverChannel.com:

A wet May boosted the snow across most of Colorado’s mountains, putting the state in good shape for the spring and summer runoff.

Water officials said Tuesday the snowpack in six of the state’s seven river basins is well above normal for this time of year. The deeper snows range from 150 percent of normal in the Yampa and White Basin in northwestern Colorado to 235 percent in the South Platte Basin in north-central Colorado.

The exception is southern Colorado’s Rio Grande Basin, which is 85 percent of normal.

Snowmelt flows into reservoirs and provides most of the state’s water. City officials and irrigators monitor the snowpack to predict how much water will be available through the dry summer months.

From The Aspen Daily News (Chad Abraham):

The Roaring Fork River was expected to peak at midnight Tuesday and continue its springtime surge for the next day or two, prompting warnings from officials about dangerous swift water…

“We’re at the point where the melt of the snowpack is creating very high and rough water,” said Jeff Lumsden, a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office patrol director who responded to that tragedy. He urged the public to be cautious around rivers.

After a cold and wet spring that locked in the snowpack, temperatures in the past few days have stayed in the 80s, and approached 90 even in the upper valley, quickly melting a lot of high-country snow that feeds local rivers.

Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District personnel in the past week have responded to at least three calls involving rafts stuck in strainers on the Fork, said Fire Chief Scott Thompson on Monday, referring to the dangerous feature that often contributes to accidents and drowning.

On a particularly hairy stretch of the Fork, about a mile downriver from Hooks Bridge below Basalt, he said crews responded to two calls Sunday. One raft was able to self-rescue, but crews from Basalt and the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District helped dislodge the other.

In the latter call, the three people on the raft, which was being used for fishing, were brought aboard the strainer so the boat could be freed and their trip could continue, Thompson said. But two of the three on the boat were not wearing life jackets, something he called unfathomable.

The rivers are “awfully cold and awfully fast this time of year,” he said.

That stretch of the Fork was “almost occluded” because of downed cottonwoods and other debris piling up, Thompson said. Rafting company crews typically take chainsaws to big trees blocking rivers, but that area is not especially popular for recreational trips, leading to a buildup of strainers…

Eagle County authorities, too, alerted the public Tuesday about the potential danger of local rivers currently. A press release says that all 64 counties in Colorado have been identified as at risk for flooding and that “playing along the shore of fast-moving water is especially dangerous for children and pets, as they can easily slip on wet, muddy banks and be swept away by fast-flowing icy water.”

The press release from Eagle County and the Eagle River Fire Protection District offers this advice:

• Turn around, don’t drown. Avoid flooded areas or those with rapid water flow. Do not attempt to cross a flowing stream; it takes only 6 inches of fast-flowing water to sweep you off your feet.

• Never drive through floodwaters or on flooded roads. Flooded roads could have significant damage hidden by the floodwaters. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Water only 2 feet deep can float away most automobiles.

• If flooding occurs, get to higher ground immediately. Stay away from flood-prone areas, including dips, low spots, valleys, ditches, washes, etc.

• Don’t allow children or pets to play near high water, storm drains, culverts or ditches. Hidden dangers could lie beneath the water, and even adults can easily be sucked under and drown in the strong currents near culverts.

• Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams and washes, particularly when threatening conditions exist.

• Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Colorado’s average snowpack across the state shot up to 201 percent of normal during May thanks to cold, wet weather, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Tuesday.

The statewide snowpack sat at about 95 percent of last year’s level as of June 1, the agency reported.

The Colorado River Basin, which includes the Roaring Fork River watershed, was at 204 percent of normal and 99 percent of last year’s snowpack as of June 1, according to the conservation service.

A lot of that snow will come melting down quickly in high temperatures. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s forecast for the Roaring Fork River shows peak levels were predicted overnight Tuesday. Levels are expected to remain high until midnight Friday.

The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department conducted rescue training over the weekend and has another training session scheduled later this week.

Most of the snowpack in the northern part of the state exists above 10,000 feet in elevation, the conservation service reported. The remaining snow is above 11,000 feet in the southern part of the state.

Ruedi Reservoir was 79 percent full as of Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reported. The agency’s website showed the inflow from the Upper Fryingpan River was at 980 cubic feet per second. The reclamation bureau issued a news released on Monday that said the releases from Ruedi dam would be ramped up to 700 cfs Tuesday. That level will be maintained “until further notice,” the agency said.

The high amount of water released from Ruedi also affects the Roaring Fork River below the confluence in Basalt.

From The Denver Post (Kieran Nicholson):

The combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins fared the best in May, receiving 154 percent of normal precipitation followed by the Rio Grande at 144 percent, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture media release.

The South Platte watershed was the only slacker in the state, still, it was 90 percent of normal precipitation at the end of the month, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado State Office.

The Gunnison wrapped up at 123 percent of normal precipitation, with a snowpack at 209 percent of normal, making it the state leader at the close of May…

Snowpack in the southern Colorado Rockies, such as the San Juan range, is greater than normal this time of year.

At the start of June, according to the release, statewide reservoir storage is currently at 108 percent of normal, down from 112 percent on May 1.

From The Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonacci):

Longmont’s Ralph Price Reservoir above Button Rock Dam will completely fill up this week and residents may notice increased water flows in the St. Vrain River.

Longmont staff said that the Left Hand Creek channel has been restored post September 2013 flood and the St. Vrain channel has been repaired to the point it should be able to carry the heavy runoffs.

Ken Huson, Longmont’s water resources manager, said as the snow in the mountains melts, there will be a high flow of water coming down the North St. Vrain Creek and completely filling Ralph Price Reservoir and spilling into the spillway.

Huson said Tuesday afternoon, the flows were up to 356 cubic feet per second and will likely get up to 400 and 500 CFS through Longmont today.

“Usually the peak for snow melt in the St. Vrain Creek will be between June 7 and June 10,” Huson said. “This year, it’s a little bit later because the cooler weather in late May kept that snowpack up in the mountains. Really in the next one to two weeks, people will see a pretty good amount of stream flow coming through Longmont.”

Longmont spokeswoman Jennifer Loper said that this flow through the city is normal and seasonal.

Longmont pedestrians and cyclists might notice some of the greenway underpasses are flooded and closed, Loper said, adding that they’re working just as they’re designed.

“That’s what they’re created for,” Loper said. “In addition to allowing people to enjoy that space on lower-flow days, water also passes there in higher-flow days.”


The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office typically will ban tubing on the river and creeks in the summer when the water flow is too dangerous. That hasn’t happened yet, Huson said, but people should be cautious around the flowing water anyway.

“It’s certainly high enough where people should watch their kids around water and it’s best not to play in it,” Huson said.

Rivers web cameras and real-time flow data is available at http://longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-n-z/public-information/flood-information/status-and-monitoring.

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