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Summit County: Low May precipitation adds to drought woes

Snowpack in Colorado River Basin just 2 percent of average

Most of Colorado’s mountain snowpack is gone and streamflows the rest of the summer will be well below average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — It might not be quite as noticeable during the warmer seasons, but May was another bust as far as precipitation in Summit County, as Mother Nature only delivered a little more than half the monthly average. The outlook for the next few weeks is generally dry, which isn’t surprising, as June is the driest month of the year in the high country.

The average May snowfall Breckenridge, based on records going back more than 100 years, is 10.9 inches. This year, National Weather Service observer Rick Bly measured just 1.3 inches. Total moisture for the month, combining melted snow and rain, averages 1.72 inches. This year, Bly measured .92 inches, with long spells of dry weather in between a few scattered storms.

By comparison, May 2011 delivered 17.3 inches of snow and 2.26 inches of precipitation.

For the year to date, Bly has measured 118.2 inches of snow, about 78 percent of the average 151.78 inches. Precipitation for the year is 10.93 inches, 82 percent of average 13.24 inches.

The  monthly stats are similar in Dillon, where Denver Water observers reported measurable precipitation on only 4 days. The average May snowfall is 7.3 inches. This year, observers counted just 1 inch. Precipitation for the month was .84 inches compared to average 1.42 inches.

Temperatures in Dillon once again ran well above average, continuing a long-term trend at the site. The average maximum daily temperature was 61.8 degrees, almost 3 degrees above the average 58.5 degrees. The average daily low was 26.5 degrees, which is .9 degrees above the long-term average based on records dating back to 1909.

Temperatures climbed into the 70s five times, with a 73-degree reading on May 27 marking the warmest day of the month. Temps dropped below freezing every night other than May 26, when the low was 41 degrees.

Continued dry and warm conditions are reflected in the statewide snowpack total, at 5 percent of average as of May 31.  The snowpack is completely gone in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basin in the southwestern corner of the state. In the Colorado River Basin, the snowpack is at 2 percent of average.

Many automated SNOTEL sites have melted out completely, some as much as 10 to 14 weeks ahead of their average dates.

The average June snowfall in Breckenridge is 2.2 inches and the all-time record is 16 inches, in 1984, with record-setting moisture (4.2 inches) in 1969. Average precipitation for June is 1.37 inches.

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