Runoff more trickle than torrent |

Runoff more trickle than torrent

The warm, dry spring devoured Colorado’s snowpack and created an anticlimactic end to the runoff on rivers and streams, according to data collected by two government agencies this week.

The statewide snowpack was only 40 percent of average as of June 1, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service reported. “For most of Colorado, May was drier and warmer than normal,” the agency reported. “These conditions have resulted in an accelerated loss of snowpack throughout the month.”

The snowpack was virtually gone in the Roaring Fork basin below the 10,600-foot elevation, the agency data showed. Field observations by Aspen Times staffers last weekend in the Fryingpan Valley indicated the snow only remained on north-facing slopes in the dark timber and high peaks above 11,000 feet.

Last year, the snowpack reached higher levels but the spring melt-off was even more drastic, noted Mike Gillespie, director of the snow survey office in Lakewood, Colo., for the NRCS.

This year, the statewide snowpack was about 96 percent of average on Jan. 1, but warm, dry conditions kept whittling away at it. Levels around the state plummeted in March because of warm conditions. The June 1 reading of 40 percent of average was the lowest for the season, the conservation service said.

The quick runoff will take a toll on the white water season. A revised report released Tuesday by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center showed that the Roaring Fork River reached its probable peak at Glenwood Springs on May 20 ” two to four weeks before the normal peak flow.

The provisional peak flow was a paltry 3,450 cubic feet per second. Last year the river peaked on May 23 at 5,640.

The average peak on the Roaring Fork River at Glenwood is 6,150 and falls between June 3 and 18, the river forecast center said.

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