As fraught as these snow-burdened commutes have been in recent days, we in Colorado should consider ourselves fortunate. The idea of record breaking snowfall for February should have us jumping in the air and clicking our heels.
That’s because we and much of the rest of the West live by a simple formula, primitively stated as winter snow equals spring runoff equals summer water. So it was nice to see the end-of-February SNOTEL report from USDA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service showing the South Platte River basin standing at 107 percent of average in a measurement known as snow water equivalent (SWE).
Or, as we like to call it, snowpack.
Even drought-stricken southeast Colorado was at 99 percent of average in the Feb. 26 report, while our central and northern mountains were at 90 percent or above. The Four Corners were drier, with the Colorado corner coming in at 67 percent of average. But even that seemed bountiful when compared to the Sierra Nevada in California, the Cascades of Oregon and Washington and the Olympics in Washington.
Squaw Valley was forced to cancel a week of World Cup ski-cross and snowboard-cross races scheduled for early this month due to poor snow levels at the resort. The SWE reading from the Lake Tahoe area was at 14 per cent of average in the report.
The snowpack percent of normal in the mountains near Portland and Seattle were in the single-digit range. The Olympic Peninsula was at 6 percent of normal. As in s-i-x percent.
A couple of major Pacific storms to hit the West Coast this winter just haven’t taken up the slack.
Ten days ago, USDA sent around a remarkable photograph, the iconic image of Half Dome as shot from Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park. The surrounding High Sierra had only a light dusting of white, a scene that one might expect in late September or perhaps mid-May.
Since then, last weekend’s snowfall in the Sierra prompted the San Francisco Chronicle to declare a “Sierra March miracle.” We can all hope for a snowy March.