DENVER (CBS4) – As the calendar has flipped to May, all eight major river basins in Colorado remain far above normal with snowpack. Some basins like the Upper Rio Grande in southern Colorado are more than 1,000% better than a year ago when compared to to the 30-year average.
Spring 2018 was a troubling time with snowpack in Colorado particularly in the southwest region of the state. The lack of snow and subsequent snow melt undoubtedly contributed to a very active fire season including the 416 fire near Durango. The fire started June 1 and burned over 55,000 acres and cost more than $27 million to contain according to the U.S. Forest Service. The statewide snowpack a year ago was only 52% compared to the 30-year average. But in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan basins in southwest Colorado the average snowpack was less than 20% of normal. Some measurement sites had never measured such little snow so late in the season.
This year it’s a completely different story. The statewide snowpack average is 128% compared to the 30-year average for May 2. And in the San Juan basin where snowpack was a measly 13% of average a year ago, this year it’s an impressive 166% of average.
The combination of much higher than normal snowpack, drought covering less than 1% of Colorado, and above average precipitation expected to continue through at least July should equate to a generally lower fire danger this year.