Snowstorm boosts ski areas and reservoirs

About 6 inches of snow covered the pasture at Charlene Sattley’s farm where they have 19 newborn lambs, with more on the way. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

About 6 inches of snow covered the pasture at Charlene Sattley’s farm where they have 19 newborn lambs, with more on the way.

Keep the snow shovels and skis handy. A spring snowstorm dumped 6 to 12 inches in the mountains, and from 3 to 6 inches at Cortez, Arriola, Dolores, Mancos and Mesa Verde National Park.

Another snow squall is expected for Montezuma and Dolores Counties Saturday afternoon and evening, reports Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The recent storm stretched from Wyoming to Arizona and into California, and had a convection effect typical of spring precipitation.

“The convection element where the clouds bubble up produces the wet heavy snow,” Daniels said.

Telluride is reporting a fresh 8 inches from the storm, drifting to a foot in places. Durango Mountain Resort received 10 inches, and Rico is reporting 4 to 5 inches.

“The snow is looking good, and I’m closing up to go and ski the fresh,” said Annie Belaska, owner of High Ground Coffee shop in Rico. “We’ve seen it all in Rico recently: sunny, rainy, snowy, sleet, windy, dusty, muddy, the whole gambit.”

Southwest Colorado is still below normal snowpack, based on a 30-year average, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The Dolores, San Miguel, Animas, and San Juan basins collectively are reported at 83 percent of normal as of April 3. The Dolores Basin is at 87 percent of normal snowpack.

However, the Dolores Basin has dramatically improved from last year with snotels showing 12.6 inches of snow-water equivalent for April 3, compared with 9.6 inches of snow water equivalent this time last year.

Irrigators woke up with a smile across the region, as did reservoir managers.

“We’re in a good mood,” said Mike Preston, manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District. “We are in the process of evaluating the impact of recent storms and will be updating farmers next week on predicted water supplies.”

Recent dust storms deposited a layer of Arizona dirt on area mountain snowpack, increasing the evaporation and rate of snowmelt, Daniels said.

“It was a substantial dust event and dropped a lot in Southwest Colorado,” he said. “The dust on snow creates a darker surface that absorbs sunlight, versus white snow that reflects it.”