From The Summit Daily (Allen Best):
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center described the snowy torrents thundering over the weekend as historic. There were deaths, there were bizarre circumstances. And at least one snowslide occurred at a scale perhaps not seen since 1910.
“The avalanches are running much larger than they have, in some cases, for maybe 50 to 100 years,” Spencer Logan, an avalanche forecaster with the center, told the Summit Daily News last Friday, soon after the avalanche cycle began.
First, the bizarre circumstances of the death of a 25-year-old man who was shoveling a low-angle roof with a companion on Saturday at a housing development near Crested Butte. According to a preliminary report by the avalanche information center, no one noticed the roof avalanche for about 10 minutes.
Help was summoned, and their bodies were located by probes. The second snow shoveler, a 37-year-old man, who had not been buried as deeply, was treated for hypothermia. They had been buried for 20 to 30 minutes.
This was in a subdivision about a mile south of the town of Crested Butte. Another roof avalanche buried a 28-year-old man the evening before in Mt. Crested Butte, the town at the base of the ski area. He was treated for low core-body temperature. Yet another roof shoveler had been rescued from a roof avalanche the weekend before.
CBS4 in Denver said the Crested Butte area had received more than 4 feet of wet, heavy snow in the days prior to the weekend avalanches. Several days more of snowfall are predicted for early this week…
In Summit County, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area was closed for two days as a precautionary measure. Probably a good thing, said the Summit Daily News as notorious avalanche paths called the Little Professor and the Widowmaker ran, burying the highway to the ski area.
More notable yet was an avalanche in the Tenmile Range above Frisco. There, a slide in 1910 took out a mining camp called Masontown. In local lore, everybody had been off to the bars in Frisco when the slide occurred. In fact, the town had been abandoned. Whatever. It was a big slide, and experts tell the Summit Daily that the slide that occurred last week might have been even bigger.
Finally, U.S. Highway 550 between Ouray and Silverton in the San Juan Mountains had been closed for a week as of Monday. Also called the Million Dollar Highway, the route was projected by Colorado highway crews to remain closed “indefinitely.”
The notorious Riverside slide had claimed many lives over the years until a snowshed was erected to funnel snows over the highway. This time it wasn’t enough. There was 20 to 30 feet of snow on the pavement before state crews intentionally triggered more slides, leaving up to 60 feet of snow. The new slide filled in the snowshed, too.
From CBS Denver (Chris Spears):
Colorado’s snowpack is now over 140 percent of normal thanks to a series of winter storms. Southern river basins are above 150 percent of normal.
The state has already exceeded average annual snowpack which usually doesn’t happen until early April. Any additional snow this spring will simply be icing on the cake in terms of water storage and drought reduction.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map released on Thursday showed incredible news for southwest Colorado.
From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):
For everyone who was caught in Colorado’s historic “bomb cyclone” blizzard Wednesday, a couple of visions come to mind: whipping winds, pelting snow and whiteout conditions.
But Weld County farmers and water managers are still thinking about what happened in the relative calm before the storm: steady rainfall that seeped into the ground early on.
It’s the type of moisture farmers want for their soil.
“This storm that we got was really beneficial from a moisture standpoint because a lot of that moisture came as rain early on,” said Randy Ray, the executive director of the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District. “So that rain was able to penetrate and soak into the ground.”
The ensuing blizzard? “It’s not as beneficial in these ground blizzards because the snow doesn’t stick to the ground,” he said. “The most beneficial snow is a nice foot of snow that just falls naturally on ground without 80 mph winds pushing it.”
Snowpack in Colorado’s South Platte River Basin, as of a Thursday measurement, was at 16 inches of snow water equivalent, a measurement that accounts for the amount of water in snow. The basin is 133 percent of average snowpack, and 168 percent of last year…
During the 2018 water year, which ended in September and was the second-driest year on record for Colorado, behind 2002, about 15 percent of the state — mostly the southwest region — experienced exceptional drought conditions, the type states only expect once every 50 years. When the water year started over in October, conditions started to change dramatically. As of March, not one region of the state is experiencing exceptional drought conditions. Most of the state, 57 percent, is abnormally dry.
Greeley and portions of Weld County are experiencing a moderate drought…
[Russ Schumacher] said he usually expects the peak of snowpack to come in early to mid-April. But many portions of the state have already passed the normal peak in just the first half of March.