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Yampa Valley snowpack at same low level it was last February

Last year, snow in the mountains peaked before the end of March, runoff tapered off earlier than normal and drought conditions worsened.

While it briefly eclipsed the 30-year median in January, the Yampa Valley’s snowpack stands back below that mark after a month of dry weather.

According to the National Water and Climate Center, the Yampa and White River Basin is at 88% of its median since 1991 and virtually the same point it was on Feb. 13 last year — a winter season that saw the amount of water that snow represents peak before the end of March.

Last year, the snowpack was trending up after a strong start to 2021, but this year snow has been hard to come by for weeks, as a ridge of high pressure to the west continues to divert storms away from Northwest Colorado.



Snotel data from the National Climate and Water Center shows this seasons snowpack, represented by the black line, is at virtually the same point as it was this time last year, represented by the blue line. The purple line is the most snow-water equivlent measured in a season, with the red line being the minimum.
National Climate and Water Center/Screenshot

That ridge is weakening storms if they arrive at all, but local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth said it might be breaking down, starting with two systems this week.

“One is just off the British Columbia coast (on Sunday),” Weissbluth said while also referencing a storm currently in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.



“Those two storms will interact, but the interaction is not certain and how much cold air each storm sucks in is not quite certain, and all of that leads to an uncertain snow forecast,” he said.

Even though models are projecting snow for Wednesday, Feb 16, there is still a lot of disagreement.

Because of this, Weissbluth hesitated to throw out numbers, instead saying he figures the amount of snow midmountain at Steamboat Ski Resort will be between a little bit and a moderate amount.

“(We’re) not looking for a tremendous amount of snow, but the Steamboat Springs area should pick up a couple of inches by Friday, (Feb, 18), morning,” said Dan Cuevas, a hydro-meteorological technician with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “Maybe (it could be) as high as 6 inches in the mountains.”

Before the snow flies, Monday, Feb 14, is expected to continue the picturesque weather of the weekend with clouds and wind from the west starting to increase throughout Tuesday, Feb. 15.

Snow should start around noon on Wednesday, Weissbluth said. The second wave of the storm moves in that night, but should wrap up by midday Thursday, Feb. 17.

Still, this week’s snow is unlikely to get the valley’s snowpack back on track.

January saw just shy of 30 inches of snow in Steamboat, far below the 46.6 inches that is normal for January, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Through Saturday, Feb. 12, Steamboat has seen just 3.6 inches more, about a quarter of the 14-inch average typically seen this far into the month.

There is still a chance to catch up in February, though, as Weissbluth said a pattern change seems to be coming sometime next week, likely after a sunny President’s Day.

“These storms out of the Pacific look like they’re breaking down that ridge of high pressure near the West Coast,” Weissbluth said. “It’s a good sign that the pattern is changing in the Pacific so I’m optimistic we could end the month on a snowy note.”


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