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Not as much improvement for our snowpack as you're probably expecting

Snotel snowpack.jpg
Posted at 9:54 AM, Feb 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-17 11:56:48-05

The biggest snowstorm of the year brought moisture to the place we needed it most: southern Colorado.

Snow Reports from Tuesday through Wednesday:

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The Wet Mountains, Sangre Cristos, and southern I-25 corridor stole the show this week with 10 to 18 inches of snow!

Colorado Springs broke two daily snow records with a storm total of 10.2 inches. Pueblo broke a daily snow record on Wednesday with a storm total of around 7 inches.

As of Monday, Pueblo had only seen 8.5" of snow this season. This is nearly 10 inches less than normal. After the storm, Pueblo's seasonal snow is now 15 inches, only three less than the average.

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Snowpack across the Arkansas basin went from around 76% on Monday to 82% Thursday.

While this is an improvement, it's probably less than people would think based on how much snow is on the ground.

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In Colorado, snowpack is calculated from SNOTEL sites located up in the mountains.

For the Arkansas Basin, SNOTEL sites are located north of Leadville in Fremont Pass, west of Buena Vista near St. Elmo, and south along the Sangre De Cristos from Hayden Pass through Cucharas Creek.

SNOTEL data is also calculated by using the measurements vs the time of year they are taken. This week we saw a lot of snow along the Sangre De Cristos, but they're supposed to see heavy snow this time of year, so it didn't register as abnormal for snowpack.

To put it simply, snow in the plains won't have much of an effect on each basin's snowpack. We need snow in the mountains near the headwaters for each basin to really boost the snowpack.

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The drought monitor was virtually unchanged this week, but that's because it was processed Tuesday before the storm hit.

We should see improvement in the drought when next week's update takes into account this week's snowstorm.

While it's unlikely drought will be erased across the plains, there was enough snow for a significant reduction in severe drought, and maybe some elimination of moderate drought.
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