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Colorado: Snowpack creeping up, still trailing 2012

Northwest, Southwest mountains seeing some drought relief

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None of the state’s river basins has an average snowpack as of Feb. 15.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s snowpack is making a mini-comeback, with February snowfall running close to normal across the mountains, piling up at an average rate of 1 to 2 inches per day.

With another storm set to roll into the Rockies the second part of the week, some SNOTEL sites in the southwestern mountains could reach close to average for the first time this winter. But for now, the statewide snowpack is tracking behind last winter, at 75 percent of average as of Feb. 15.

The southwest corner of the state is reporting the highest readings, with the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan reading at 89 percent of average, the Upper Rio Grande and 79 percent and the Gunnison Basin at 76 percent.

Colder than average temperatures across the mountains in January helped maintain the snow that did fall during the month, but the state’s water managers are still concerned about summer supplies as storage levels have dropped to well below average. Some municipal water providers are considering mandatory restrictions before the lawn-watering season starts.

The South Platte Basin, key to Denver Water’s supply system,  is the driest in the state at 40 percent below average. The Arkansas Basin, critical for agriculture on the southeastern plains, is 35 percent below average.

Up in the northwest corner of the state, snowpack in the Yampa Basin has crept up to about 80 percent of average thanks to a few sneaker storms that delivered more moisture than expected.

The incoming storm system is on a classic late winter track, slated to hit the San Juans and to deliver some much-needed moisture on the northeastern plains of Colorado, which could help the South Platte Basin.

Another storm could develop by the weekend, but just a small variation in its track will change the location of the heaviest snow, according to the National Weather Service.

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