February snowfall near average in Summit County

Temps run well below normal at Dillon weather station

A satellite photo from the NASA Earth Observatory collection shows extensive snow cover prevailed across parts of Colorado after storms in late January and early February. Click here to learn more about this image.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Temperatures in at least parts of Summit County ran well below average in February, while snowfall totals were near average for the month at the two official National Weather Service reporting sites in Breckenridge and Dillon.

In Breckenridge, long-time weather observer Rick Bly said he tallied 25.4 inches of snow for the month. The long-term average is 23.5 inches. The snow-water equivalent was also slightly above average, at 1.88 inches compared to 1.71 inches.

The snowfall, combined with cool temperatures, helped maintain the snowpack but didn’t make much of a dent in the seasonal deficit. For the year to-date (starting Oct. 1), snowfall is still about 30 percent below average, at 69,5 inches. The average, based on records going back to the late 1800s, is 101.5 inches.

This year’s total seasonal snowfall is also lagging well behind last winter, according to Bly, who reported that, by this time last year, he had measured 95.2 inches of snow at the end of February, about 30 inches more than this winter.

But it’s far from being the driest year on record. In the winter of 1980-1981, just 27.8 inches of snow had fallen at this point in the season.

Meanwhile, water managers in Colorado are hoping that March and April live up to their historic record of being the most reliably snow months. On average, March delivers 25.5 inches of snow and 1.91 inches of water. The biggest March total on record was back in 1899, the winter of the Big White in Summit County, when 10 feet of snow was recorded in Breckenridge.

More recently, March 2003 delivered 47.5 inches, which is the third-snowiest March on record. The 2003 total came in large part from a mid-month storm that started St. Patrick’s Day. It blasted parts of the Front Range with 80 to 90 inches of snow and spilled over the Continental Divide to help break the back of the 2002 drought.

On the other extreme, only 4 inches of snow fell in March, 1962, and last year wasn’t far behind with just 6.7 inches of snow.

In Dillon, Denver Water observers reported 15.5 inches of snow for the month, about 4 inches below the long-term average (18.6 inches). All that snow fell in 1- to 2-inch increments and delivered a snow-water equivalent of just 0.75 inches, well below the average of 1.20 inches for the site.

The Dillon Station (located at Denver Water’s compound along Highway 6) also reported unusually cold temperatures for the month. The average daily maximum temperature for February was just 29.4 degrees, nearly 4.5 degrees below the historic average (34 degrees). The average daily minimum temperature was 0.6 degrees, just about 1 degree below the average of 1.5 degrees.

The warmest reading of the month was Feb. 6 at 44 degrees, while the coldest temperature was minus 15 degrees on Feb. 12. Temps climbed into the 40s only three times and the daily highs stayed below freezing 14 times. Nighttime lows dropped below zero nine times and never climbed out of the single digits.


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