June 1 snowpack far exceeds normal across the Colorado Rockies | CraigDailyPress.com

June 1 snowpack far exceeds normal across the Colorado Rockies

Tom Ross

South Routt resident Brian Dudley climbs along the margin of an avalanche debris field June 7 just southeast of the Devil's Causeway cirque in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. He and companion Matt Wood turns in the spring corn on their splitboards. Above average May precipitation had boosted snowpack in the Yampa River Basin to 98 percent of median on June 1.

— The news that the snowpack in the combined Yampa/White river basin was 98 percent of median on June 1 despite sub-par winter snow totals is cause for celebration. It means there remains water stored in the high peaks to feed tributary streams and rivers into summer.

However, snowpack in Northwest Colorado (actually the amount of water stored in the remaining snow) pales in comparison to the rest of the state. May saw 239 percent of average precipitation across the state, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As a result, snowpack in the Arkansas River basin, which flows to the Eastern Slope, stood at 282 percent of median on June 1, and the South Platte Basin, which provides water for the central and northern front range, is at 320 percent.

"This substantial addition of moisture, both in the form of snow and rain, have notably increased water supply forecasts across the state from a month ago," Colorado Snow Survey Supervisor Brian Domonkos said in a prepared statement.

But it's not all good news, Domonkos noted. The areas that stand to carry the highest remaining snowpack deep into summer are also susceptible to flood danger. Hoosier Pass, on Colorado Highway 9 between Breckenridge and South Park, is a case in point. On June 9, that site is typically free of snow. This year, the snow on the pass still contains 12.6 inches of water. Loveland Basin, familiar to most motorists in Northern Colorado, has 14.2 inches of water content, compared to the median 1.6 inches on June 1.

"Having a substantial amount of snow in the mountains as temperatures continue to rise, and the probability of rain on snow events, increases the risk of flooding resulting from accelerated snowmelt," Domonkos said. "These events depend on a variety of combined factors, but are something to be aware of as a possibility in the coming weeks."

The snowpack picture close to Steamboat relative to the Yampa River relies primarily on the highest elevations of the Park Range north of the Steamboat Ski Area.

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The Tower measuring site, at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass northeast of Steamboat Springs, showed 20.4 inches on June 9 compared to the median 29.4 inches. Ripple Creek Pass near the headwaters of the White River is a standout; it still had 11.4 inches of water, compared to the median 1.2 inches.

Thanks to record May precipitation — much of it snow at high elevations — the statewide snowpack stood at 212 percent of median, according to the NRCS. Only the Rio Grande Basin had a lower percent of median than the Yampa/White basin's 98 percent.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

River Basin percent median snowpack

Gunnison — 216

Colorado — 223

South Platte — 320

North Platte — 100

Yampa/White — 98

Arkansas — 282

Rio Grande — 86

San Juan, Animas — 207

Statewide — 212