Colorado’s snowpack improving on the Western Slope, Front Range after January storms

Snowpack levels on the Western Slope continue to climb above normal for this time of the year and thanks to recent winter storms the Front Range is no longer terribly far behind.

That recent snowfall to the west even means that drought conditions are no longer as severe as they were in late December, according to the latest data from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Climatologists expressed concern at lower snowpack levels earlier in the winter. Snowfall on the Western Slope feeds into the Colorado River, upon which tens of millions of people depend. And abnormally dry conditions to the east exacerbate wildfire risk, seen most recently in the devastating Marshall fire in Boulder County.

Over the last few weeks snowpack levels trended toward those above-average levels.

Data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that as of Thursday snowpack around Gunnison and Ouray sits at 148% of normal levels. Snowpack around Durango also rose to 137% of normal levels.

Similarly levels around Aspen and Glenwood Springs are 124% of normal and the area around Steamboat Springs is at 115% of normal. Even the Front Range, where conditions were previously described as “bleak” is looking better. Snowpack from Denver to Fort Collins sits at 110% of normal. And from Colorado Springs to Pueblo levels are 88% of normal.

With the improving snowpack, some Western Slope areas in Garfield, Gunnison, Mesa and Pitkin counties are now considered to be “abnormally dry,” an improvement over the moderate and severe drought conditions previously noted by the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Above-average snowfall must continue not only this month but also in February and into the spring for the state to recharge dry soils and refill parched streams that feed into record-low reservoirs, experts have said.

Current forecasts from the National Weather Service show that Denver will likely see more snow Thursday and has slight chances of snow and rain on Saturday.

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