Heather McGregor
Post Independent Editor
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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January 30, 2013
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Storms bring 'much-needed' snow to area watersheds

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A wet, warm, winter storm moved through Colorado Monday, followed by a second storm later Tuesday, bringing much-needed snow as well as icy roads, rockfall and a high danger of avalanche.

A winter storm warning is in effect through 6 p.m. Thursday as a second major storm system moves through Utah and into Colorado today.

Sunlight Mountain Resort received 20 inches of new snow from Sunday through Tuesday, and snow is still falling, said Jennie Spillane, marketing manager for Sunlight.

"We now have a 45-inch base, and there is more snow in the forecast through Thursday," Spillane said. "There is still a lot out there to be had."

The snowfall is a good build-up for Sunlight's annual Ski Spree, set for Feb. 9-10.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is rating the avalanche risk as moderate in the high country north of the Colorado River and high to the south.

Morning commuters traveling to and through Glenwood Springs Tuesday reported icy, slick conditions from snow falling atop roads wet from rain.

"Monday started out with a lot of rain, even in the high country," said Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation. "Then it snowed all day - up to 10 inches over 10 hours on McClure Pass."

Hazardous conditions and avalanche control work forced the closure Tuesday of a stretch of Highway 65 going over Grand Mesa, from above Powderhorn to the summit, Shanks said.

The big boulder that rolled down onto I-70 in Glenwood Canyon at 6 a.m. Monday is enjoying widespread celebrity - even though it's already been blasted apart and hauled off.

On CDOT's Facebook page, a photo of the boulder snapped by a CDOT crew member using a cell phone received 620 "likes" and got shared across Facebook 5,592 times, Shanks said.

The storm brought a return to winter conditions, but it is not enough to bring the high country snowpack back to normal.

Snowpack in the Colorado River basin is just 64 percent of average for Jan. 30, said David Kanzer, senior water resources engineer for the Colorado River District, the 15-county agency that advocates for Western Slope water.

"The snow is much-needed, and we need much more," said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the River District. "To get to normal, we'd need to get 136 percent of normal snowfall through the rest of the winter. Anything is possible, but that illustrates the magnitude of the issue."

Kanzer said the basinwide snowpack for the Colorado River above Dotsero is still less than it was on Jan. 30 in 2012 and 2002, the two most recent severe drought years. It is higher than in 1981, he noted. Comparative figures for 1977, considered to be the rock-bottom year for drought, weren't readily available.

Spring runoff into Lake Powell is forecast to be just 56 percent of average, and may fall below 50 percent with new estimates, Kanzer said.

"This number is more reflective of the water supply issue," he said, as the West heads into a second year of severe drought.

"The three-month forecast is for below-normal precipitation and above-average temperatures. We can still make some progress and defy the projections, but one storm does not erase the deficit," Kanzer said.

"The good news is for the rest of this week, we'll get a few extra inches of snow-water-equivalent in a pretty wide swath. The most encouraging sign is it's widespread and relatively rich in moisture."


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 30, 2013 01:25AM Published Jan 30, 2013 01:21AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.