Unsettled weather week could bring much needed water to a drying out Yampa Valley | SteamboatToday.com

Unsettled weather week could bring much needed water to a drying out Yampa Valley

A view of Mount Werner above the Yampa River on Sunday morning. Steamboat Resort saw the least amount of snow this year since 2015, and late season precipitation could prove crucial to avoiding water resource issues this summer. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Yampa Valley will take all the moisture it can get right now, as many are worried that a low-snow winter that started with dry soil in the fall will cause water problems all summer long.

But the valley did get a boost last week, with the amount of water in the snow in the Yampa River watershed increasing slightly. Still, the increase was not enough to surpass this season’s previous peak at the end of March of 16.6 inches of water.

“We did quite well out of that last storm,” said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com. “It is significant that we can still add to it at this point in the season.”

Unsettled weather this week could bring more precipitation to the valley several times before things dry out and get warmer by next weekend.

The snow water equivalent, a measurement of how much water is in the snow in the hills of the Yampa River watershed, started to back up a bit this week after peaking at the end of March. The black line denotes this year's trend, and the green line is the median water equivilency trend. (Screenshot)

A cold front moves in Monday during the day, sometime between noon and sunset, Weissbluth said. This will being a series of storm cells, similar to last week, and could bring between 3 to 6 inches of snow at midmountain.

This could come in the form of rain at lower elevations, said Tom Renwick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Breezy weather with gusts of wind up to 30 miles per hour is expected to come with the front.

The National Weather Service is projecting a high of 45 degrees Monday, but it could be colder depending on when the front moves in, Weissbluth said. Near the top of Mount Werner, temperatures are expected to get down to about 10 degrees.

The low temperatures Monday night should get down to about 15 degrees in Steamboat Springs, and the high Tuesday is set to rebound to 41 degrees, well below the seasonal average of 55 degrees.

The second and third storms of the week are more complicated, Weissbluth said, because they are pacific storms mixing with cold air from the north. On Wednesday, the first of these should arrive during the day with a mixture of snow and rain that will eventually transition over to snow.

“That is going to be a complicated forecast because of the interaction of the pacific stream and the energy from the north,” Weissbluth said. “At this point, there is a lot of uncertainty with how much we are going to get out of that.”

Renwick agreed, saying that one day the models look like the storm could bring a decent amount of precipitation, and another day, it looks as if it could bring next to nothing.

If tethered to a number, Weissbluth said he would expect 3 to 6 inches at midmountain again, with about half of that at lower elevations and in town.

Thursday should be a dry day before another system similar to Wednesday moves through. While the forecast is still fluid, Weissbluth said precipitations should start during the day Friday and continue into the night.

“Snowfall is undetermined at this point, and then, believe it or not, there is an indication we’re finally going to dry out and warm up for the weekend,” Weissbluth said.

There is a chance snow showers linger into Saturday morning before it clears out for a dry weekend with temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s, Renwick said. The start of next week should remain dry as well, before another potential storm the middle of next week.

“I would say it is sort of unsettled,” Renwick said, reflecting on this week’s weather. “Very typical spring weather is what I would call it.”

There is a spark of optimism in the long-range forecasts though, in addition to next week’s chance, there are more opportunities for snow around the end of the month and again the first week of May.

“I think we are going to be still adding to the snowpack through the month,” Weissbluth said. “It looks like we will be heading into May still accumulating, which is great.”

In previous years, late season snow has buoyed water resources enough to turn a down winter, like 2021 has been, into close to a normal season. At Steamboat Resort, there was less total snow this year than any year since the winter spanning 2014 and 2015.

Total snowfall at Steamboat Resort (Source: onthesnow.com)
Winter seasonTotal snowfallDays of snowfall

That season the resort saw just 174 total inches of snow on just 50 different days where snowfall was recorded, according to OnTheSnow.com. This winter’s 64 days of snow was able to pile up 219 inches at the resort.

The lack of snow was a common disappointment of guests at the resort last weekend, but they recognized that outside of weather related dances and hoping for more next year, not much else could be done. Steamboat Springs resident Brian Roe said he spent about 40 days on the mountain this season.

“It has been alright, but we have certainly had better snow years,” Roe said.

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