Snowpack near normal

Despite higher than average temperatures this winter, Northwest Colorado's snowpack is near normal.

Snowpack in the Yampa and White River Basins measured 92 percent of the historical average in January, according to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

That figure places both basins behind most of the state, but the snowpack is still better than it was in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

"While we'll need to closely monitor conditions across Northern Colorado for the remainder of the winter, this year's snowpack is providing optimism to many water users across the state," said Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS.

Snowpack is an area of naturally formed, packed snow that usually melts during warmer months. The NRCS uses snowpack data to forecast runoff along the state's major rivers during the spring and summer.

Even though the snowpack is improved from recent years, the NRCS expects that it won't help Northern Colorado recover from the effects of long-term drought unless snowpack conditions improve in the next two months.

The NRCS measures snowpack at 20 sites at elevations between 9,000 and 10,000 feet. Those altitudes haven't experienced the same warm weather that has caused snow to melt in Northwest Colorado's valleys, said Mike Gillespie of NRCS's snow survey team.

"We haven't seen any dramatic melting at our sites," Gillespie said.

Nor have the higher elevations received the rain lower elevations in the Yampa Valley did throughout January.

Even though the ground at lower elevations might be saturated, Gillespie isn't worried that it will have an adverse effect on the region during spring melt off.

"As far as flooding, it's not a cause for concern," he said.

Flooding usually occurs in late May or June if the weather gets very warm and the snowpack melts quickly, said Mike Chamberlain, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

If the region gets some heavy rain, flooding could be possible in isolated regions, but it would not be a basin-wide event, Chamberlain said.

Measuring in at 154 percent of average, southwest Colorado's river basins have the most snowpack in the state. That's good news for that region, which has been dry during recent years.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.