As I See It
2002 will be remembered as a year of storms, both good and bad, and for storms we didn’t get.
After a somewhat lackluster snowfall during the first few months of the year, spring came early, and was dryer than usual, setting a pattern which continued throughout the summer.
What happened to the late winter snowstorms, and the spring rainstorms and summer thunderstorms we usually see? Instead we experienced one of the worst droughts in Colorado history, which depleted reservoirs throughout the state to a pitiful fraction of their normal capacities. The summer wildflower displays for which Colorado is famous were to be seen only at the highest elevations, which were able to squeeze a little moisture out of the passing clouds.
Sadly the drought brought on the most unwelcome storm of all – a storm of wildfires. More than 2,000 fires in Colorado alone burned half a million acres of forests and grasslands. Nearly 26,000 acres were destroyed by two fires close to home, the Coal Seam Fire, which surrounded West Glenwood on three sides, and the Spring Creek Fire north of New Castle. The Trappers Lake area was the scene of an even bigger fire which spread over 17,000 acres.
Then in September and October, the rains we waited for all summer finally arrived, blessing us with almost six inches of desperately needed rain – half the amount we normally get in an entire year. The marvelous thing about all that rain is that it did not come in one or two intense storms, which would have created major debris flows from the fire-damaged areas, potentially resulting in as much property damage as was caused by the fires. Instead the rain came in a series of well-spaced, slow, steady showers, allowing the welcome moisture to soak into the ground.
And now to make up for the long time we had to wait for rain, a series of early winter storms has dumped more than three feet of snow on the Flat Tops. Although this amount of snow created havoc for a lot of hunters, it is a most welcome sight to those of us who live here and depend on winter snows for our water supply and the health of our economy. The upper elevations of Colorado’s ski areas have received as much as four to six feet of snow, promising a resurgence in skier numbers after two seasons of declining attendance.
And now that the election is over, we have finally seen the end of a most unwelcome storm – the deluge of high-priced television ads trying to convince us that the candidates these ads support are not beholden to the wealthy contributors whose money paid for them. The only positive side of this year’s political campaigns with all of their negative ads was the greater than usual turnout of candidate supporters enthusiastically waving their banners at the traffic along Grand Avenue. This was politics in the best tradition of the American election scene.
So now we look ahead into the upcoming winter and wonder what it will bring us in the way of snowstorms. Are the early snowstorms a harbinger of the future? In normal years we tend to complain long and hard about snowstorms, because they make the roads treacherous and force us to get out our snow shovels. This year will we change our attitude and see snowstorms in a different light? Will we be happy to shovel the white stuff and be willing to inject prudent caution into our driving and accept the inconveniences that come with the snow, because we need it so badly and it is so essential to our future well-being? Smile while you shovel out your sidewalk and your driveway. Both the exercise and the snow are good for us!
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This will be my 500th column — my final column in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.