Low temperatures have preserved most of the snowpack in the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs, resulting in near-record low flows in the Yampa River this spring. That's expected to change as temperatures continue to climb this weekend.

Photo by John F. Russell

Low temperatures have preserved most of the snowpack in the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs, resulting in near-record low flows in the Yampa River this spring. That's expected to change as temperatures continue to climb this weekend.

60 degree temperatures in Steamboat to catch up with persistent snowpack

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— After a week when the overnight low temperatures dipped into the 20s, the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs on Friday afternoon was flowing within 14 cubic feet per second of its historic low for the date. But that wasn’t reflective of drought conditions.

Recent wintry weather has forestalled the beginning of spring runoff, but the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City expects melting to begin in earnest this weekend when temperatures will reach the 60s.

The U.S. Geological Survey was reporting that the river where it flows beneath the Fifth Street Bridge was flowing at 219 cfs at 3 p.m. Friday compared with the historic low of 204 cfs in 1944. The median flow for this date is greater than 800 cfs, and the average is 944 cfs.

The temperature in Steamboat reached 60 degrees at 3:45 p.m. Friday, and the River Forecast Center was projecting the river would jump to 400 cfs after nightfall, when the daily cycle peaks, then continue climbing steeply to nearly 1,000 cfs Wednesday evening.

And there’s still ample snow in the mountains. Nicke Bencke, of the U.S. Forest Service, made the trip up Buffalo Pass to the Continental Divide northeast of Steamboat on April 23 and took two snow depth readings that showed 124 inches and 128 inches at the Tower measuring site.

The automated measuring equipment maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service showed Buffalo Pass had received 9 inches of new snow as of Monday morning and the snowpack had settled to about 113 inches during the week. The snow on the West Summit of Rabbit Ears Pass was holding up at a depth of 67 inches.

The low temperature overnight Friday into Saturday still was expected to dip to 29 degrees before rising to 62 degrees Saturday afternoon. But the National Weather Service in Grand Junction is forecasting that the more significant temperature change will come about Sunday, when the high could reach 66 degrees under mostly sunny skies. And the daily high on the first day of the new workweek could reach 68.

The mild conditions in the Yampa Valley will be driven by a ridge of high pressure stretching from central California all the way across the Great Basin, according to the National Weather Service.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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