New storm could help restore snowpack

2 to 4 inches expected through region tonight

The snow forecast for Southwest Colorado basins tonight through Friday is much-needed in a region where accumulation through December was only 59 percent of average, the lowest in the state.

A slight chance of snow after 2 p.m. today in the region will give way to a solid 90 percent chance of precipitation overnight that could bring 2 to 4 inches.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction put the possibility of snow Friday at 80 percent and 50 percent Friday night, with 1 to 2 inches of new snow possible.

The chance for snow on Saturday tapers off quickly.

Cold will accompany the snow. The high today will be 38, dipping to 19 overnight. The high Friday will be 26 and an overnight low of minus 1.

Saturday temperatures will be fiercer, a high of 16 and an overnight low of minus 9. Sunday’s high and low will be 21 and minus 1. Monday’s numbers will be 25 and zero.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, which prepares for highway work according to the outlook of avalanche forecasters and a dozen weather services, expects up to 8 inches of snow on Wolf Creek, Coal Bank and Molas passes as well as the south side of Red Mountain Pass, spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said Wednesday.

Snow accumulation on Lizard Head Pass on Colorado Highway 145 south of Telluride is expected to be 3 to 5 inches, Shanks said.

No avalanche work is anticipated, she said.

The state’s water-supply outlook for this month, prepared by the National Resources Conservation Service, shows the Animas, San Juan, Dolores and San Miguel basins, which began December with a snowpack 37 percent of normal, bounced back with the help of several late-month storms. The late-month storms brought December’s precipitation to 105 percent of average for the month.

The accumulation brought the region’s four basins back to 70 percent of normal on Jan. 1.

Reservoir storage in the four basins stood at 106 percent of normal at the end of May, but fell to 66 percent of average on Dec. 31. Total current reservoir storage in the region is 248,000 acre-feet, compared with 400,000 acre-feet at the same time last year.

An acre-foot covers a football field to the depth of 1 foot.

The state as a whole fared slightly better than Southwest Colorado. The collective snowpack on Jan. 1 stood at 91 percent of the same date in 2012. The Jan. 1, 2013, level replaced last year as the fourth lowest in the last 32 years.

“Given the current snowpack deficit, the state needs to receive above-normal snowfall over the next few months to reach normal conditions by spring,” the National Resources Conservation Service report said.”