Snowmelt controlled so far

Yampa, White river basin levels reflect lower-than-average year

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Snowmelt in Northwest Colorado is well under way.

As of Thursday morning, the Yampa and White river basins were at 77 percent of the average snowpack for this time of year. That reflects what consistently has been a below-average snow year.

But the melt is not happening as quickly as it did last year, said Mike Gillespie, a snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Ser--vice.

Last year at this time, the snowpack throughout the area was down to about 4 inches of snow water equivalent. Now it is 12 inches.

The melting has been steady so far, Gillespie said. Even if temperatures top out in the 80s, there shouldn't be major problems with snowmelt.

"Things seem to be melting out in a fairly controlled manner," he said.

There was some melt in early April, but then when the weather cooled, the runoff stopped for a week or so, he said.

Snowpack is measured at several sites in the county.

One is near Dry Lake campground on Buffalo Pass, which is at an elevation of 8,400 feet. The snow water equivalent there has decreased from 11.9 inches last Friday to 5.7 inches this week.

Losing about an inch of snow water equivalent daily is typical for this time of year, Gillespie said. At that rate, snow in the Dry Lake area could be gone in the next week or so.

Another site is farther up Buffalo Pass at 10,500 feet. There, snow water equivalent was about 40 inches Thursday.

With warmer temperatures, the snow should melt quickly, which should translate to more water in the rivers.

As of Thursday morning, the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs was flowing at a rate of 1,410 cubic feet per second. That's about 400 cfs lower than the 97-year mean.

On Thursday morning, the Elk River near Milner was flowing at 3,050 cfs, which is above the 2,404 cfs 35-year mean.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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