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Colorado: Snowpack near average in north

Central and southern mountains lagging

Northern snowpack near average, central and southern mountains lagging.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — While millions of people in the northeastern part of the U.S. are bracing for Hurricane Sandy, the Colorado high country will see mostly benign weather the next few days, with high pressure building in from the southwest bringing temperatures back to above normal for this time of year under a blocking pattern, with an upper-level ridge over the western Atlantic and deep low over the eastern U.S.

That should send temperatures in eastern Colorado and along the Front Range into the 60s and possibly even the 70s by mid-week. Highs the first part of the week will be close to average, in the mid-40s, and by the latter part of the week, up into the low- to mid-50s, anywhere from 6 to 8 degrees above average. Nighttime lows will be seasonably cool, from the low- to mid-20s, plenty cold for snowmaking.

Sunday will continue on the cool and breezy side under a northwest flow, with perhaps a stray shower over the northern mountains. Statewide, highs will only climb into the 40s and possibly into the low 50s in a couple of warm spots. To give you an idea of how cool the weekend pattern is, the warmest reading across Colorado Saturday was 42, reached in Burlington, Springfield and Salida.

The blocking pattern will start to break down toward the end of the week, with the medium-range forecast models showing a Pacific trough approaching, but it’s not clear how far south the storm will dig.

The October dustings did help alleviate drought conditions in the northern part of the state, where snowpack as of Oct. 26 was close to average, but along and south of I-70, the snowpack is barely limping along at 60 percent of average in the Colorado River Basin, 70 percent of normal in the Arkansas River Basin and just 20 percent of normal in the Gunnison Basin.

In the southwestern and south-central mountains, the snowpack is only at 3 percent of normal in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan Basin, and 4 percent in the Upper Rio Grande Basin.

Some SNOTEL sites are already reporting a settled snowpack ranging from a couple of inches to as high as 13 inches at the Deadman Hill SNOTEL site, at 10,220 feet in northern Larimer County.

The Copper Mountain SNOTEL site is reporting 3 inches, Grizzly Peak (near A-Basin), 6 inches, and Loveland Basin, 8 inches.

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