The weird and wonderful world of #Denver snow: Forget slush and snow piles – Mile High snowfall is a superior model — Metropolitan State University of Denver

From Red MSU Denver (Mark Cox):

If you love snow, then it’s been a long autumn in Denver.

As the calendar turned to November, the city was still waiting for its first measurable snowfall, which typically happens in mid-October. Last year, Denver saw its first measurable snowfall in early September.

That unpredictability notwithstanding, Denver and other Colorado cities can be among the snowiest in the country, though as Sam Ng, Ph.D., points out, not all snowy cities are created equal. The professor of Meteorology at Metropolitan State University of Denver explains why the Mile High City basically wins at winter.

This is a different kind of snowy city

A recent survey showed that Colorado contained three of the six snowiest cities in the country last season, with Denver taking the No. 3 spot. Thanks to a monster March blizzard, the city recorded 80.2 inches during the 2020-21 season. Even the city’s historical average of 56.5 inches does sound like quite a lot of the white stuff, so you can see why visitors might arrive expecting a frosty deluge.

A Winter storm blankets the Auraria Campus with over six inches of snow on Monday, January 2019. Photo/Mark Stahl

The other cities on the snowiest list, in places such as New York and Pennsylvania, face gray skies, prolonged icy spells and heavy snowfall that sticks around for weeks. But winter in Denver is altogether a brighter affair. “Due to the unique quirks of our altitude, climate and geography,” Ng said, “our winter weather, and particularly our snow, looks and even behaves very differently (compared) to most other places.”

Colorado’s climate creates perfect snow

Snowfall across the U.S. comes in many variations, which are determined by local temperatures and how much moisture is in the air. “And fortunately,” Ng explained, “Denver benefits from the unique combination of a dry atmosphere and just-right freezing conditions to create perfectly light, fluffy snow.”

Unlike the heavy, wet snow you often see in northeastern U.S. states, Denver specializes in powdery, low-density white stuff that’s light and easy to manage. “Thankfully, we aren’t burdened with the kind of backbreaking icy stuff that’s hellish to dig up from your front path,” Ng said.

Surprise! Denver is warm (and sunny) for much of the winter

Denver typically sees its first snowfall in October. Last year, the city reported its first measurable snow on Sept. 8, which tied for the second earliest on record. Photo by Amanda Schwengel

Many snowbound U.S. cities may not see much trade in shorts, light jackets and flip-flops during the cooler months. But winter days in Denver are often sunny and surprisingly balmy. “It’s generally moisture in the air that makes people feel the chill during the winter,” Ng said, “and Denver’s lack of humidity and the downslope wind helps to keep us pretty warm.” Even in December, the city’s coldest month, you’ll often find the thermometer nudging toward 60 degrees.

Snow falls in Denver for much of the year

Last year, Denver’s first snow arrived in September, and then it snowed every month right through May – a span of 245 days over nine months. And while the city also saw many stretches of warm, glorious weather during that time, you always knew another blanket of snow was coming.

“It’s partly our high elevation and also how dry the air is up here, both of which are conducive to snowflakes surviving and thriving,” Ng explained. Basically, the region has the perfect meteorological ingredients in place to make snow happen at the drop of a hat – or at least a drop in temperature.

“Thanks to our unusual weather systems, we sometimes even get snow here when the temperature is above freezing,” Ng said.

You can expect HEAVY snow … which quickly vanishes

Every Denverite can tell you about the sudden snowfalls that completely engulf the place like thick icing on a giant, city-size cake. “Our fast-moving snowstorms often dump more than a foot of snow (and occasionally much more) in a matter of hours,” Ng said. “It’s just part of life here.”

Denver receives an average of 56.5 inches of snow per year. Shutterstock photo

But equally mind-boggling is the speed with which Denver snow disappears. Whereas snowfall in many parts of the U.S. can just lie there for weeks or months (one recent snow pile in Boston didn’t disappear until July), a few sustained bursts of Colorado’s powerful sun rays can blast away most traces of a Denver deluge within a couple of days.

Denver snowfall creeps up on you – fast

Occasionally, life on Denver’s meteorological rollercoaster can reach almost comical proportions. In September 2020, sweltering Denverites saw a 93-degree day followed by a 60-degree plunge that ushered in a foot of snow, all within 18 hours. That was a bit extreme, even for Denver. But wild swings from sun-lounging to snow-clearing weather are fairly frequent here.

“Mile High tourists often get weather whiplash trying to keep up with the dramatic speed of our climatological cycles,” Ng said. “You’re never quite sure whether you’ll need sandals or snow boots on any given day.”

Two stellar dendrite crystals with a complex and elegant structure. Shutterstock photo

We even get the best type of snowflakes

There’s a huge selection of snowflake formations out there, such as hollow columns, needles, double plates, rimed crystals, bullet rosettes – plus another distinctive design. “Denver gets a lot of stellar dendrites, which are those classic six-sided snow crystals you see on holiday cards,” Ng said. “They are pretty large, extremely thin and super-light, which makes them ideal for producing the best kind of powdery snow.”

There’s a good reason for such wacky weather

When you place a city 5,280 feet high in a semi-arid climate on a desert plain right next to a massive mountain range, weather weirdness is going to follow. “Denver represents a complete climatological mashup,” Ng said. “Its high elevation and warm temperatures, combined with all the cold air rolling down from the nearby Rocky Mountains, create some truly unique conditions that lead to our unorthodox but always exciting weather.”

Assessing the U.S. #Climate in October 2021 — NOAA

Courtesy of Sharan Singh — Getty Images

Click here to read the assessment from NOAA:

Conveyor belts of Pacific moisture, defined as atmospheric rivers, impacted much of the central West Coast from October 19-26. On October 24, a Category 5 (exceptional) atmospheric river event brought record rainfall to parts of central California. The heavy rain near wildfire burn scars triggered multiple landslides, yet helped partially snuff out the wildfire season and lessened the drought severity across this portion of the West.

For October, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 57.0°F, 2.9°F above the 20th-century average. This ranked sixth warmest in the 127-year period of record. For the year-to-date, the contiguous U.S. average temperature was also 57.0°F, 2.0°F above average, and ranked ninth warmest in the January-October record.

The October precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 3.11 inches, 0.95 inch above average, and ranked ninth wettest in the historical record. For the year-to-date, the contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 26.74 inches, 1.38 inches above average, and ranked in the wettest third of the January-October record.

Please Note: Material provided in this map was compiled from NOAA’s State of the Climate Reports. For more information please visit: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc

This monthly summary from NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.

October

Temperature

  • Temperatures were above average from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Ohio and Maryland ranked warmest on record for October while Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine each ranked second warmest. Temperatures were below average across portions of the West Coast and Southwest.
  • Alaska ranked in the middle third of the October record with a statewide average temperature of 28.0°F, 2.5°F above the long-term average. Temperatures were above average across portions of the Alaskan Interior and North Slope and slightly below average across the Panhandle. Despite the year-to-year downward trend in October sea ice extent, the average Chukchi Sea ice extent during October was the highest seen since 2001.

Precipitation

  • Precipitation was above average across parts of the West, Plains, Great Lakes, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast. California and Illinois ranked fourth wettest on record for October. Precipitation was below average across portions of the Southwest, central Rockies and western Great Lakes.
    • Multiple atmospheric river (AR) events occurred from October 19-26. The AR Category 5 event on October 24 brought record rainfall to portions of central California. Sacramento, Blue Canyon and Santa Rosa each reported their wettest 24-hour period on record during this event. Heavy mountain snowfall made travel through passes nearly impossible.
    • While the AR events were impacting the West Coast, the East Coast experienced an early fall Nor’easter. On October 26, high winds and heavy rainfall led to flash flooding and power outages from New Jersey to Massachusetts.
  • Alaska’s statewide average of 4.50 inches of precipitation in October was 0.11 inch above the long-term average and ranked in the middle one-third of the 97-year record. A late-month atmospheric river event transported ample amounts of moisture into south-central Alaska. Alyeska reported its wettest single day and 3-day period on record with 9.53 inches and 15.05 inches of precipitation, respectively. Portage Glacier Visitors Center received nearly 20 inches of rain during the last three days of October with accumulations continuing into early November.
  • According to the November 2U.S. Drought Monitor report, approximately 48 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, a little more than what was observed at the end of September. Drought conditions expanded and/or intensified across parts of the northern Great Lakes, Texas, central High Plains and emerged in portions of the eastern Carolinas. Drought intensity became less severe across much of the West, northern Plains, Oklahoma, portions of the Midwest and was nearly eliminated across Puerto Rico.

Extremes

  • A persistent ridge of high pressure across the eastern U.S. contributed to the record warm October temperatures observed in locations spanning from Milwaukee to New Haven, CT. Record-warm mild nights were observed from the Great Lakes to southern New England and were the main driver for these warm monthly temperatures.
  • An all-time record low pressure system (942.5 mb) for a storm in this region developed in the eastern Pacific Ocean and strengthened rapidly on October 24, generating hurricane force winds and wave heights up to 45 feet off the coast of Washington and Oregon while channeling several waves of Pacific moisture toward the West Coast.
  • Sacramento, CA, set a record of 211 days without measurable precipitation in 2021. This streak ended on October 17. On October 24, a category 5 atmospheric river event brought 5.45 inches of rainfall to Sacramento, breaking the previous single-day precipitation record of 5.28 inches, set in 1880.
  • Preliminary tornado counts across the U.S. during October were second highest on record for the month with a count of 146. Only preliminary counts in 2018 ranked higher with 159 tornadoes reported. Oklahoma reported a record 31 tornadoes for October, which exceeds the previous record of 27 set in 1998.

Year-to-date (January-October)

Temperature

  • Year-to-date temperatures were above average across much of the Lower 48. Maine ranked second warmest on record while Vermont and New Hampshire ranked third warmest on record for this 10-month period. Temperatures were below average across portions of the Deep South.
  • Temperatures across Alaska ranked in the middle third of the historical record for January-October with a statewide average temperature of 30.6°F, 1.0°F above the long-term average. Temperatures were above average across portions of southwestern and northeastern Alaska.

Precipitation

  • January-October precipitation was above average from the Deep South to the Great Lakes and into the Northeast. Mississippi and Massachusetts ranked third wettest while Louisiana ranked fourth wettest for this year-to-date period. Precipitation was below average across portions of the West, northern Plains, Great Lakes and New England. Montana ranked fourth driest for this period.
  • Across Alaska, year-to-date precipitation was above average. Cook Inlet was drier than average while much of the Interior regions, West Coast, North Slope and Panhandle received above-average precipitation for the first 10 months of the year.

Western Water Assessment: Intermountain West #Climate Dashboard: Oct Climate Summary & 2021 Water Year Summary

Click here to go to the Western Water Assessment website. Here’s an excerpt:

November 8, 2021 (CO, UT, WY)

  • The 2022 water year started well for much of the region. Large areas of Utah and Wyoming received much-above average precipitation and most areas above 8,000 feet have average to much-above average snowpack. Wet conditions caused a contraction of D3 and D4 drought in Utah and Wyoming, but drought conditions expanded in eastern Colorado and central Wyoming. La Niña conditions currently exist and are likely to continue through at least mid-winter. La Niña conditions typically increase the probability of above average precipitation in the northern part of the region and increase the probability of below average precipitation in the southern part of our region.
  • October precipitation was much-above normal in Utah and Wyoming; large areas of both states received greater than 150 – 400% of normal precipitation.
  • Western Colorado received slightly above average precipitation, but most of eastern Colorado saw less than 50% of normal precipitation.
  • Temperatures were cooler than average in Utah with southern Utah temperatures up to 4 degrees below normal. Most of Colorado and Wyoming saw near-normal temperatures (+/- 2 degrees) except in eastern Colorado and Wyoming where temperatures were up to 4 degrees above normal.
  • Snowfall for most of the region was much-above normal during October. Much of the precipitation that fell in Utah, Wyoming and western Colorado fell as snow at elevations above 8,000 feet. Winter is off to a great start as all regional river basins have above average snow water equivalent (SWE) except for northern Wyoming, South Platte and Rio Grande River basins. While percent of normal figures can be a bit skewed in early and late winter, Utah river basins range from 100 – 800% normal SWE. SWE in Colorado and southern Wyoming ranges from 90 – 200% of normal.
  • Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map November 3, 2021 via the NRCS.
  • Regional streamflow was higher in October compared to previous months with many rivers flowing at normal levels (25th to 75th percentile). Streamflow in several regional rivers still remains very low (<10th percentile), including the Snake, Yellowstone, White, Dolores, Bear, Logan, and Weber Rivers.
  • Moderate drought emerged in eastern Colorado and central Wyoming during October and now covers nearly 90% of the region. Extreme drought conditions expanded in northern Wyoming, but coverage of extreme and exceptional drought in Utah and western Colorado contracted during October. A small area of extreme drought developed in northeastern Colorado. Surface soil moisture conditions improved dramatically over large areas of Utah, Wyoming and northern Colorado.
  • West Drought Monitor map November 2, 2021.
  • La Niña conditions currently exist in the eastern Pacific Ocean as sea-surface temperatures are -0.8ºC below normal. There is an 80% probability of La Niña conditions persisting through January and a 60% chance of La Niña continuing through March. The NOAA seasonal forecast projects an increased probability for above average precipitation in northern Utah and Wyoming during November and in Wyoming during November – January. The NOAA seasonal forecast for November projects an increased probability of above average temperatures for the entire region and the November – January seasonal forecast projects an increased probability of above average temperature for Utah and Colorado.
  • Significant October weather event. October precipitation was extremely high throughout much of Utah and Wyoming. Cities along the Wasatch Front, including Logan, Ogden, Provo and Salt Lake City observed the 3rd to 5th wettest October. In Wyoming, Lander observed the 3rd wettest October, and it was the 5th wettest October ever in Green River; in Lovell, Pinedale and Worland, October precipitation was in the top ten of all October observations. An important consequence of the wet October was a dramatic wetting of surface soil moisture conditions in Utah, Wyoming and northern Colorado. In northern and western Utah, many locations went from the driest on record to average and above average soil moisture conditions. Except for the Yellowstone Plateau, soil moisture conditions in Wyoming improved from near-record dry to much-above average wetness. Far northern Colorado also saw dramatic improvements to surface soil moisture conditions.
  • Water Year 2021 Summary

  • The 2021 water year was the second consecutive year of drought in the Intermountain West. The year began with 100% of the region in drought and over 50% of the region in extreme drought. A below average to near-average winter snowpack yielded a much-below average spring runoff seasons. Seasonal runoff volumes from most regional rivers varied from 8-57% of normal and the inflow to Lake Powell received 28% of normal streamflow. Higher seasonal streamflow volumes were observed for river basins east of the Continental Divide in Colorado and Wyoming. Heavy precipitation in eastern Colorado relieved drought by June 1st east of the Continental Divide. Elsewhere in the region, drought conditions peaked in July as Lake Powell and the Great Salt Lakes reached all-time low elevations. An overall dry and drought-riddled water year finished on a positive note as a very strong North American Monsoon brought above average July-August precipitation to much of the region and regional soil moistures have recovered somewhat from all-time lows during early summer.
  • Precipitation during the 2021 water year was below normal for most of the region, except for the Front Range and southeastern Colorado where precipitation was up to 120% of normal. Northwestern and southern Utah, southwestern and eastern Wyoming and northwestern Colorado received less than 70% of average precipitation. Temperatures were generally above normal in western Colorado, most of Utah, and southwestern and northeastern Wyoming. Temperatures were cooler than average in eastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. Summer temperatures were extremely hot in the Intermountain West in 2021; Utah saw the hottest June-August on record while Wyoming and Colorado experienced the 3rd and 4th hottest summers since 1895.
  • Winter was slow to start regionally; January 1st 2021 snow water equivalent (SWE) was 50-80% normal in most locations. By April 1st, SWE was near average in Colorado (93% statewide average) and Wyoming (94%), but below average in Utah (79%). Snowmelt proceeded extremely quickly during April and May, especially in Utah and western Colorado; May 1st SWE was 52% of normal in Utah and 71% of normal in Colorado. One June 1st, SWE was 12% of normal in Utah and snow was completely melted from all but 3 sites compared to 17 sites with snow on a normal June 1st.
  • Much like the 2020 water year, streamflow volumes in the 2021 water year were significantly lower compared to average than snowfall. While April 1st SWE varied from 50-80% of normal in most locations, April-July streamflow volumes varied from just 8-57% at those same locations. The inflow to Lake Powell was 28% of normal in 2021. April-July streamflow volumes were closer to normal east of the Continental Divide where snowfall was near to slightly above normal. The 2021 water year produced an inefficient runoff for all river basins in the Intermountain West similarly to the 2020 water year. Streamflow volume forecasts were very low on April 1st at <60% of normal runoff for most of the region. Warm temperatures, dry soils and below average spring precipitation led to a very fast snowmelt in Utah and western Colorado.
  • By June 1st seasonal streamflow volume forecasts predicted <50% of normal runoff for nearly the entire Upper Colorado and Great Basins. One cause of inefficient runoff during 2021, was extremely low soil moisture to begin the water year. October 1st 2020 soil moisture values were very low in Utah, western Colorado and parts of western Wyoming. Soils in large areas of Utah and western Colorado were at the lowest moisture levels observed (since 1948) to start a water year. Very low October 1st soil moisture meant that melting snow in spring needed to first recharge soil moisture reservoirs before snowmelt could reach regional rivers.
  • The 2021 water year was a year of extreme drought for the entire region. The water year began with 99% of the region in drought and over 50% of the region in extreme drought. The worst drought conditions were found in Utah; during July, when conditions were driest, 100% of the state was in at least extreme drought and 70% of the state was in exceptional drought. Two periods of rainfall outside of winter brought improvements to drought during 2021. Much above average precipitation during March – May 2021 in eastern Colorado led to the complete removal of all drought conditions east of the Continental Divide by June 1st. The wet period began on March 13th with a very large upslope snowstorm that brought 18 – 52” of snow to an area from the north slope of the Uinta Mountains east to Cheyenne, WY and south to Denver, CO. Except for eastern Colorado, drought conditions generally worsened throughout the region until mid-July when monsoonal precipitation began to push northward into southern Utah and southwestern Colorado. Strong monsoonal precipitation continued into August when Utah, western Wyoming and northwestern Colorado received above average precipitation; large areas of Utah and western Wyoming saw greater than 200% of normal August precipitation with some locations breaking monthly rainfall records. The 2021 water year closed with some improvements to the severity of drought compared to the beginning of the water year; regional coverage of D1-D3 drought decreased by 10-20%.
  • Monsoonal rainfall during July and August did improve drought conditions, but the region is far from recovered from drought. One impact of long-term drought is reflected by the amount of water in large reservoirs and terminal lakes. Both Lake Powell and the Great Salt Lake reached all-time low elevations during summer 2021. During August, Lake Powell reached a new record-low elevation of 3,551 feet above sea level; Lake Powell is currently at an elevation of 3,544 feet, 29% full and is expected to fall another 30 feet before spring runoff begins. The Great Salt Lake is a terminal lake in northern Utah that marks the end of the Bear, Weber and Provo/Jordan Rivers. Because it is a terminal lake, its elevation is a function of water inputs and water withdrawals. Drought, climate change and human consumption of water have led to a long-term decline in the Great Salt Lake’s elevation and area. The lake reached an all-time low elevation during of 4,191.3 feet in August, about 20 feet below its all-time high elevation in 1986. Because the Great Salt Lake is such a shallow lake, the area of the lake fluctuates by nearly a factor of 3, ranging from an area of 965 square miles in 2021 to 2,395 square miles in 1986. Above average precipitation during August – October has kept Great Salt Lake elevations hovering around record low levels, but not consistently lower as predicted earlier in the summer.
  • Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is a go after federal, state and local reviews finalized: Project to raise dam will improve water reliability for more than 1.5 million people while benefiting the environment — News on Tap

    From Denver Water (Jay Adams and Todd Hartman):

    After nearly 20 years of preparations, the expansion of Gross Reservoir in Boulder County is moving ahead.

    Last week, Denver Water took the final step necessary to proceed with the project after striking an agreement with Boulder County to take additional actions to offset impacts of the project.

    The accord with Boulder County means Denver Water can proceed with the long-awaited project that will raise the dam, triple the reservoir capacity and mean far more water security for 1.5 million people in an era of more intense droughts, heavier rain events and earlier snowmelt – all driven by climate change.

    “Today is an historic occasion for Denver Water,” CEO/Manager Jim Lochhead told Denver’s Board of Water Commissioners on Nov. 3, upon acceptance of the Boulder County agreement.

    “We bring to a conclusion the federal, state and local review processes that will allow us to begin construction of the expansion of Gross Reservoir.”

    Expanding the reservoir requires raising the dam 131 feet by placing new concrete on the existing structure. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Denver Water personnel will begin close coordination with Boulder County and others to prepare the area and local roadways for construction. Denver Water will continue to engage and communicate with project neighbors to ease impacts of the work.

    “In the two decades Denver Water has spent preparing for the project, we have been driven by a singular value: the need to do this expansion the right way, by involving the community, by upholding the highest environmental standards and by protecting and managing the water and landscapes that define Colorado,” Lochhead said.

    “Boulder County and its residents share these perspectives, and we look forward to continuing to work with them as the project moves ahead.”

    Building the Gross Reservoir Dam in the 1950s. Photo credit: Denver Water.

    Gross Dam was built in the 1950s and named after Dwight D. Gross, a former chief engineer at Denver Water. It was built to store water from the West Slope that travels through the Moffat Tunnel, as well as water from South Boulder Creek.

    “The original engineers designed the dam so that it could be raised twice, if needed,” said Jeff Martin, Gross Reservoir project manager. “Based on our water supply projections and current system shortfalls, that need is here.”

    Denver Water began the permitting process to raise the dam in 2003 and received approvals from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2016 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2017.

    The plan cleared its final federal hurdle on July 16, 2020, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave its approval for the project and ordered Denver Water to proceed with design and construction.

    The project has earned support from major environmental groups, business interests, water users on both sides of the Continental Divide and elected officials on both sides of the aisle, including the state’s last five governors.

    Raising the dam will increase the reservoir’s storage capacity by 77,000 acre-feet of water and make Gross Reservoir the second-largest in Denver Water’s system. When complete, Gross Reservoir will be able to hold 119,000 acre-feet, second only to Dillon Reservoir in Summit County, which is capable of holding just north of 257,000 acre-feet.

    The graphic shows the existing dam and water level and how high the new dam will rise above the current water level. Image credit: Denver Water.

    Expanding Gross Reservoir is a major part of Denver Water’s long-term, multipronged approach to deliver safe, reliable water to more than 1.5 million people today and those who will call the Front Range home in the future. That approach includes increased water efficiency, recycling water and responsibly sourcing new storage.

    The additional reservoir capacity will enable increased water capture in wet years to help avoid shortages during droughts. It will also help offset a current imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system that is a significant risk.

    Denver Water has a water storage imbalance between its two collection systems with 90% of its reservoir storage located in the utility’s South System compared to 10% in its North System. This storage imbalance creates vulnerability if there is a drought, mechanical issue or emergency that affects the South System. The storage imbalance is one of the reasons Denver Water is expanding Gross Reservoir. Image credit: Denver Water.

    “Right now, 90% of our water storage is on the south end of our water collection system, but just 10% of our storage is on the north end,” Martin said.

    “By enlarging Gross Dam, we’ll be able to store more water in the north, which will improve our flexibility in the event there’s a problem on the south side that could come from any number of operational issues or threats, like wildfires.”

    Once filled, the expansion at Gross will provide an additional 72,000 acre-feet of water storage, which is roughly the amount 288,000 residential households would use for one year.

    In addition, 5,000 acre-feet of storage space in the expanded reservoir — known as the environmental pool — is reserved to support environmental needs as part of an agreement with the cities of Boulder and Lafayette. Water from the environmental pool will be used to provide beneficial stream flows along a 17-mile stretch of South Boulder Creek below the dam during dry periods to protect fish and aquatic insects.

    Denver Water also has committed over $20 million to more than 60 environmental mitigation and enhancement projects on both sides of the Continental Divide as a result of the project. According to Colorado officials, those commitments will provide a net environmental benefit for the state’s water quality.

    Denver Water will use its existing water rights to fill the reservoir when it is complete. Engineers expect it will take around five years to fill the newly expanded portion of the reservoir, depending on precipitation and water use from customers.

    “In the end, this project won’t be judged by whether we raised the dam, but rather how we went about expanding the reservoir,” Lochhead said. “We will continue to seek community input and look forward to working with Boulder County as the project moves ahead.”

    The Power Grid: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

    Transmission tower near Firestone. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    John Oliver discusses the current state of the nation’s power grid, why it needs fixing, and, of course, how fun balloons are.