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Big snows boost Colorado snowpack to best levels in 10 years

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” As snow keeps piling up in Colorado’s mountains, the state’s snowpack is building to its biggest level in more than a decade.

The snowpack, the source of 80 percent of the state’s water supply, is huge in southern Colorado, which was hit hard by the recent drought. The area’s snowpack ranges from 165 percent to 170 percent of average.

“These are the best conditions we have seen around the state since 1997,” said Mike Gillespie, snow-survey supervisor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. “And we’ve had some good years in between that time.”

Statewide, the snowpack is 132 percent of average. The levels are lower in northern Colorado and along the Front Range, running from 109 percent in the Yampa and White river basins 101 percent in the South Platte River basin.

The snowpack percentage is measured against a 30-year average.

Western Colorado’s abundance of snow is good news for the region. Eight major Colorado river systems also provide water to 10 western states.

A dry November had ski resorts and water managers worried and some forecasters predicting a dry winter.

Since then, an onslaught of storms has dumped several feet of snow in western Colorado, setting off avalanches and prompting emergency feeding for big game in the Gunnison Basin. Seven people have died or are presumed dead this winter after hiking, skiing and snowmobiling in Colorado’s backcountry.

After 6 feet of snow in about a month, people in Durango are worried about roofs collapsing. Authorities have warned that sledding can trigger avalanches.

A man was buried by an avalanche Tuesday while skiing on a slope above Durango’s dog park. A person in the Double Tree Hotel parking lot called 911 to report that a skier had been trapped.

Search and rescue crews dug out Kyle Stansbury, 28. He was treated at Mercy Regional Medical Center and released Tuesday, hospital spokesman David Bruzzese.

March typically is one of the state’s biggest months for precipitation.

“If March is really dry, we could fall behind; we just won’t fall behind like we did in 2002,” said Klaus Wolter, a forecaster with the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration in Boulder. “But I’m not certain that March is going to be that dry.”

Wolter does believe the next couple weeks will be dry. If the storms return after that, the next big worry will be flooding, he added.


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