Snowpack still below average

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— Snowpack in the Yampa River Basin remains well below average, even though 14.5 inches of snow fell Sunday and Monday at mid-mountain of the Steamboat Ski Area.

On Monday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service showed the snowpack in the Yampa River Basin at 67 percent of the average, according to 15 automated sites in the high country in and around Routt County.

Vance Fulton, NRCS soil conservation technician, said he and a crew would check the sites later this week to make sure they are accurate. However, he expects what's being reported is on target.

"We are definitely down," he said.

Unlike snow depth, snowpack is the amount of water that actually exists in the snow. It is directly related to the amount of water that comes down from higher elevations during the spring.

The snowpack and river runoff has been down the past two years in the Yampa Valley and Colorado. Fulton said it appears 2002 is the same story.

"It (snowpack) was down last year and it is lower this year," Fulton said.

A site in the Rabbit Ears Pass area measures the snowpack at 14.1 inches, down from the average of 20.8 inches. At the Columbine site in North Routt County, the snowpack is 13.7 inches, down from the 21.2-inch average.

Plus, all of the seven other basins in the state where the NRCS has sites are significantly below average.

The lowest is the Upper Rio Grande Basin, showing 45 percent of the average. The Wolf Creek Summit, which rivals Buffalo Pass for the most snow in the state, has a 7.3-inch snowpack, down from the average of 25.1 inches.

Though the heavy snowfall month of March is still ahead, Fulton said it would take substantial amount of moisture to bring the snowpack up to average.

"It's not impossible, but it's unlikely," he said.

No significant snow is forecast to hit the Yampa Valley the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service.

"You will be seeing some activity, but it doesn't appear to be big storms," forecaster Paul Frisbie said.

There is a chance for small amounts of snow all week, which could accumulate to 4 inches in the higher elevations.

Temperatures are expected to fall well below zero. This morning the thermometer could drop to 25 below. The cold snap is expected to leave the valley by Wednesday.

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