By the time April arrives each year, many of us are ready for the long, warm days that signal spring’s presence and hint at summer’s promise. While a few such days have graced the calendar thus far this year, dropping mercury, high winds and late-season storms have caused spring fevers to spike to new levels across Colorado. Despite the longing for warmth, though, the lingering cold and precipitation will pay dividends in the months ahead.
The 2012-13 winter got off to a slow start snowwise, leaving many of the state’s river basins with grim snowpack levels. The late-season storms that have hit in varying strength have given a much-needed boost to the snowpack that will feed Colorado’s rivers – and all who rely on them – throughout the summer. The statewide snowpack now is at 82 percent of average – and 211 percent of last year’s levels at this time. That is a welcome shift, however chilly the price.
In Southwest Colorado, the snowpack picture is similar, though not quite as comfortable as the statewide numbers. The San Juan, Animas, San Miguel and Dolores river basins currently are at 70 percent of the average snowpack. A bit more worrisome than the statewide 82 percent level but, at 177 percent of 2012 levels, still a vast improvement.
Heading into the hot, dry days that will come in short order, the longer the region’s snowpack can sustain, the easier we all can breathe with respect to fire danger. Last year was a particularly nasty fire season in Colorado, predicated in part by a warm, dry spring. As lovely as those days are for those who have endured a cold, dark winter, too quick a jump in temperature can have drastic ramifications later in the year.
This is, of course, cold comfort in the meantime. Weather patterns are a long game, and those who have endured a cold, dark winter are eager to trade down jackets for flip-flops. Gardeners anxious to start this year’s crops wait for the mercurial all-clear to begin sowing in the ground. River runners look for the telltale murkiness that signals the start of runoff. The gale-force winds blowing snow and dust across the sky and into the region’s lungs are less-welcome spring sights. They ultimately, though, will boost the gardening, river and outdoor seasons, providing necessary water far longer into the summer. For that, we can all take some consolation and enjoy the warm days that will inevitably arrive – perhaps not soon enough.