Warmth reduces snowpack

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There's 8 feet of snow on Buffalo Pass northeast of Steamboat Springs, but that's 2 feet less than average for April 1.

The Steamboat Springs office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Wednesday that the amount of water stored in the snow in the Yampa River Basin is 66 percent of the historical average. By the time you read this, the number will have slipped lower.

"I was actually surprised at how low it was," Vance Fulton of the NRCS said. "I knew it would be low, but I didn't think it would be that low.

Reservoir managers in the area have given firm predictions that Fish Creek Reservoir --Steamboat's primary source of municipal water -- and Stagecoach Reservoir will fill this spring. Fulton said the bad news regarding Steamboat's snowpack is a matter of concern to water users in other western states as well as farther west in Colorado.

"It's really significant for people downstream," Fulton said. "It's that much water that's not going to make it down to them."

In terms of percentage of average water content, the "Tower Snotel" on Buffalo Pass is leading the pack among 12 snow-measuring sites monitored by the NRCS here. The 97 inches of snow that remained on the pass contained 34.5 inches of water. That represents 75 percent of the average of 45.8. Last year at this time, the snow on Buffalo Pass measured 123 inches and stored 42.8 inches of water.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Buffalo Park Snotel on the east side of Buffalo Pass is recording 7 inches of water stored in 26.3 inches of snow. That's 49 percent of the historic average of 14.4 inches of water. The other side of the pass is a different story. On the west side, Rabbit Ears Snotel retains 50 inches of snow and 18.6 inches of water representing 68 percent of average.

Snow moisture at the Lost Dog Snotel off Seedhouse Road is 69 percent of average. However, the measurement at the Elk River Snotel, lower in the valley, is 51 percent of average.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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