Soaking rains Monday and Tuesday pushed Grand Junction precipitation levels from below-normal to above-normal levels for April, and also put the city on a record pace for total precipitation so far for the current water year, which ends Sept. 30.
Following a wet winter, April had been relatively dry through Sunday, with 0.46 inches of precipitation having fallen for the month. But a combined 0.67 inches fell on Monday and through early afternoon Tuesday, with more rain expected later in the day, and suddenly the city was nearly a quarter inch above the 0.91 inches it normally gets through April 30.
"We've gotten more precipitation the last few days than the previous entire month of April," said National Weather Service meteorologist Jimmy Fowler.
The recent rain also pushed the city's precipitation for the water year starting Oct. 1 to 8.75 inches, ahead of the previous record through April 30 of 8.6 inches, set in 1928-29.
Grand Junction precipitation during this water year already is slightly above the average 8.69 inches that the city gets in an entire water year, according to data going back to 1893.
"So we're doing pretty well," Fowler said. "If we stopped getting any precipitation tomorrow we would have a pretty average water year. Anything more is just icing on the cake."
That said, some of the city's wettest months are typically July and August, during the monsoon season.
Last year was a glaring exception to the rule, when the monsoon largely failed to deliver, following dismal winter snowfall. But this winter was a different story. The Natural Resources Conservation Service on Tuesday was reporting statewide snowpack at 123 percent of median. While the Colorado River Basin was at 121 percent, the Gunnison Basin was at 145 percent, and rivers in far southwestern Colorado were at a combined 159 percent.
Fowler said the National Weather Service was receiving reports of more than 10 inches of snow from this week's storm in Crested Butte, 10 inches on Coal Bank Pass and nine inches on Molas Pass. Those two passes are on U.S. Highway 550 in southwest Colorado.
Backcountry travelers should be aware of increased avalanche danger resulting from the storm. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center says the danger is now considerable across most of the mountains, including on the Grand Mesa.
The center said Tuesday morning on its website that its Grand Mesa forecast zone got about 10 to 12 inches of snow over the previous 24 hours.
The wet spring storm brought water-heavy snow with it.
Fowler said the National Weather Service was getting reports of snow containing an inch of precipitation for every 5 inches of snow. In Colorado it more normally takes about 10 inches of snow to get an inch of moisture.
Preliminary 24-hour totals show measuring sites in several area communities doing considerably better than Grand Junction did in terms of this week's rain, National Weather Service data shows. Readings at some of those sites included 1.4 inches in Cedaredge, 1.28 in Collbran, 1.25 in Hotchkiss, 1.15 in Glenwood Springs, 1.14 in Palisade, 1.11 in Glade Park, and 1.05 in Rifle. Several of those communities also had other measurement sites with lower precipitation amounts.
Fowler said a large, low-pressure system that came directly from the west of Grand Junction was responsible for the rain. Such a storm gives the Grand Valley its best chance of precipitation, he said.
"If it comes from the north or south the mountains kind of hinder us from getting any kind of precipitation," he said.
A chance of showers continues through this morning in local valleys, and snow remains possible in the mountains throughout the day. Fowler said that after that, a dry spell is expected through the weekend and widespread precipitation isn't in the forecast until next Wednesday.