Cool, wet spring has snowpack at record levels in high country

Snowpack at the start of the month was at record levels across most of Colorado’s northern and central mountains, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service said Thursday.

The state’s snowpack didn’t peak until late May in northern Colorado, about three weeks later than average, the agency said.

Cool temperatures and continuing moisture helped delay the arrival of peak snowpack. Now officials are hoping to see periodic breaks from warm June temperatures to limit extra-high peak flows and flooding on area rivers and creeks.

“There remains a tremendous amount of snow across northern Colorado. A gradual and even meltout would help minimize impacts,” Allen Green, state conservationist for the NRCS, said in a news release Thursday.

The agency said the forecasted runoff in the Colorado, Yampa, White, and North and South Platte river basins this year will be two to three times the average.

Statewide, the maximum snowpack was 128 percent of average. The North Platte basin led the way at 163 percent of average, followed by the Yampa/White, 154; South Platte, 150; Colorado, 149; Gunnison, 125; and Arkansas, 103.

The Rio Grande’s maximum snowpack was just 79 percent of average, and the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan, 91 percent.

The Colorado basin snowpack reached its peak 19 days later than average.

On Thursday, more public agencies called on the public to exercise caution along waterways. The Colorado Division of Wildlife advised anglers and boaters to be wary of fast currents, cold water, submerged debris such as tree trunks and shifting boulders, and treacherous and unfamiliar riverbank conditions that can result in recreationists falling into the water.

“In a year like this, it pays to be extra, extra careful,” Jim Haskins, the area wildlife manager for Steamboat Springs, said in a DOW news release.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board said in a news release Thursday that flood advisories have been issued for Mesa, Moffat, Routt, Grand and Jackson counties, and more are expected soon. It said the Colorado, Yampa, Elk and North Platte rivers and their major tributaries are of greatest concern in western Colorado, with many of them already at, or close to, bank full.

It said some peak flows could reach levels not seen since 1995, or possibly 1984.

With weather forecasters expecting a short cooling trend starting today, followed by a prolonged warming trend, the water conservation board said rivers could peak once in coming days, then again later in June.


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