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Old 05-18-2015   #1
Durango, CO
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 211
SW Colo Snowpack

Looks like the SW Colo snowpack went from a bleak 38% to 80% in three weeks, not bad! I don't think we're done yet either. 20 years ago( 1995) same thing, cold wet May. Turned into big water that year. You never just never what's gonna happen next. Also just curious why all the low water carnage at Mudslide on the Piedra. Is something different with the rapid this year?

Peace, and stay safe out there!

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Old 05-19-2015   #2
Durango, CO
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 211
Updated for this morning at 5:20 am because I can't sleep - overall SW Colo is now at 91% with the San Juan drainage at 52% and the Animas Drainage at 117%

Peace, and be smart out there!

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Old 05-19-2015   #3
Paddling Since: 96
Join Date: Feb 2009
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I was present for one of the episodes at Mudslide. That was only my second time on the Piedra with my first time 6 years ago. It looked the same to me but I'm obviously not one to judge if its changed. We were running what I assume is the standard line with a left to right boof through the right side of the hole. The hole is backed up by a couple sievey looking rocks. My bud was using a small launch pad on the right side of the "horizon line" and a last second cross current pushed his bow into the rock on the right. It stopped him, the current turned him, and he ran the drop backwards with no speed. The hole was no place to be. After a while he swam and fortunately the current carried him out to the right. I ran the same line without hitting the rock and it went easy. I would add that my bud is a better boater than me with many years of class 5 experience. To my eye, that could be a very dangerous spot if you didn't flush right. My advice, at 800 cfs be careful not to cut it too close to the rock on the right as you approach the boof.
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Old 05-19-2015   #4
tj@cu's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 983
Not sure what data your looking at but we lost a lot of snow during the dry hot spring, we are not 91% of avg peak, this wet weather has just delayed the melting thus making it seem like there is more than there actually is, to show my point check the graph:

Still not complaining about the moisture and I know it will extend the season, I'm just not convinced its going to be epic big water, I'm would be ecstatic with average.

This chart shows what I mean, year to date precip is 81% but swe is 91% due to delayed melt:
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Old 05-19-2015   #5
Durango, CO
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 211
Sounds about right, bounce it down the left - boof the flake into the
runout and cruise on down to the Eye. Maybe just FU rocks at low water catching a couple folks. Anyway thanks for the reply........

Peace, and have fun out there!
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Old 05-19-2015   #6
Durango, CO
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2005
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Actually if we're talking about water content in the snowpack which is key at this point for runoff, we are 91% overall. That may change quickly depending on where the snowline was last night and how free water is percolating thru snowpack which might result in a large spike today and tomorrow but with another storm projected for this coming weekend our snowpack has increased exponentially. Yes, our water came later this but the amount of water content for most of the drainages around Durango is now over 100%. We didn't get our average winter precip but we got way more than our average May precip which if it gets hot in early June portends good things
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Old 05-19-2015   #7
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
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Percentages are misleading after peak. Its easy to misinterpret and think you are good at ~90% of average. Tom has it right, and the chart tells the story. Southern region as a whole peaked around 13" SWE or ~60% of normal peak. Dry spring robbed a bunch of that to the point that current snowpack is about 6" SWE or about 30% of normal peak. Cool weather has kept runoff at bay to a degree, but when the heat comes, that 6" will be gone in a hurry and you will have far less water than you think. 90% of average just means that in an average year the 20+" of SWE has already melted a fair bit. Just because the numbers say 90% of average doesn't mean you will get 90% of normal streamflow. Probably more like 30% of normal streamflow. Absolute inches of snow water equivalent mean more than %'s.
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Old 05-19-2015   #8
cedar city, Utah
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,928
Yeah, the generic snow figures are very misleading right now. I mean they are saying we have 125% in SW Utah right now when the vast majority of sites completely melted out weeks ago. All this moisture hitting the west right now is much needed and will undoubtedly have an impact on the spring to summer releases but 90% SWE equivalent right now is not the same as 90% SWE around the average snowpack peak date. The benefit is this storm isn't over yet and most of the west is predicted to continue to get El Nino moisture through early next week. That only helps.

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Old 05-19-2015   #9
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Oct 2012
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The NRCS graphs express % of normal by date not by year. So currently the Animas watershed is at 52% for this date not 50% of its average peak SWE. You can see that in this figure:

it expresses that for today May 19th we are at 80% of normal for that day on the median line but overall we are only at 30% of average of the peak and therefore can expect much lower runoff when the weather does eventually warm up.

Albeit I am all in favor of more snow but this is the science of these charts. Here is a useful figure for determining % of average snowpack for the current date in the western US by the NRCS:
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Old 05-19-2015   #10
Durango, CO
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 211
That would be absolutely reasonable but as the water content in the snowpack has recharged as of today in relation to the avg snow water for this date historically, the inches of water represented in the NRCS tables show how much water measured in inches currently exist at each site in the area, which will at some point come the mountain this year. As a boater I'm more interested in the swe today than how much snow we got this winter based on what you said about lack of moisture in March and April. We could have gotten 40 ft of snow this winter and a warm dry March sucked away all that water until a cold May recharged all that hollow snow. So I'm more interested 5 ft deep wet and dense snowpack than a 10 ft deep hollow snowpack made up of bottomless facets. I should have qualified my comments to say swe average which in mid May means more to me than % of average precipitation which occurs over the entire water year from October to September. Thanks for your comments....

Peace, summer is coming

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