Near-record snowpack in parts of Colorado River Basin

A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.
A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.

Colorado’s north-central mountains favored by this winter’s storm track

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Summit County remained a target for above average precipitation in February, with both official weather stations reporting surplus snowfall for the month. The Upper Blue in particular benefited from the storm track, with the snowpack now approaching record levels.

To date, the snowpack  in the Blue River Basin is the third highest on record, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Gimmestad, who said there is a moderate potential for spring flooding in the basin.

In Breckenridge, weather observer Rick Bly measured 43.8 inches of snow for the month, well above the February average of 23.5 inches, making it the ninth snowiest February on record. All that snow adds up to 3.91 inches of water, more than double the average 1.71 inches.

For the water year to-date (starting Oct. 1, 2013), snowfall in Breckenridge is about 70 percent ahead of average, 172.2 inches, compared to the normal 101.5 inches. And the water content in the snowpack is also well ahead of average, at 12.63 inches, compared to 7.52 inches. The annual average precipitation for Breckenridge is 21.9 inches.

“It’s almost like we’ve picked up a couple of extra months,” Bly said. “One interesting thing is here, we reached about 170 inches on the twentieth of February. That’s usually the end of season average, at the end of April,” he said, adding that, for the year to date, it’s the sixth-snowiest ski season on record. For December through February, snow fell on about two of every three days, he said.

Looking ahead, March tends to be one of the wetter months of the year, but it doesn’t often get extreme.

“One of the things about March, doesn’t have the wider swings that some other winter months … We typically average 25 inches,” he said. “I can see six times where we’ve gotten above 40  inches, but March tends to be closer to the average than some of the other winter months.”

The most snow ever recorded in March came during the winter of 1899, with 120 inches, and the driest March on record was in 1962, with just four inches. In the modern era, the snowiest March on record was in 2003, with 47.5 inches of snow, as a monster St. Patrick’s Day storm helped end a severe drought in Colorado. The same storm brought up to 90 inches of snow to some Front Range spots.

Snowfall totals for February were also above average in Dillon, where Denver Water takes daily readings for the National Weather Service. Snowfall at the Dillon site for the month added up to 31.5 inches, almost double the average 18.6 inches. There were only nine days with no measurable precipitation, and the snow melted down would yield about 1.62 inches of water, nearly half an inch above average.

The average daily maximum temperature was 31.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 2.7 degrees below average, but the average daily minimum temperature was 9.6 degrees, more than 8 degrees above the average of 1.5 degrees.






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