Grand Valley snowpack is here to stay

By: James Hopkins Email
By: James Hopkins Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Since the first week of December when we saw nine inches in one storm, not a whole lot of the snow has melted. In fact, we've only added to the accumulation over the past month.

It's hard to say exactly just how long we'll be stuck with this snowpack, but love it or hate it, the snow isn't melting. And even though it may seem like the white stuff has been on the ground for awhile, we're nowhere near the record.

Mother Nature's winter grip started early, with the Grand Valley's first major snow storm hitting the first week of December. Since then, we've been in a deep freeze, keeping the snow in place. "It's fairly unusual with 29 days of an inch or more of snow, that puts us at 16 for the longest number of consecutive days," says Bryan Lawrence of the National Weather Service. The longest was 94 days back in 1979, where snow fell on Dec. 2 and stayed all the way until March 5.

With the ground covered in snow, it's causing the temperatures to stay well below normal, strengthening the inversion and helping to keep the snow in place even longer. "We don't see any real relief from this cold and expect the snow to stay for at least the next seven to 10 days," says Lawrence.

While the snow makes it colder, Grand Junction is not the only place that has seen a below normal start to the winter season. "Much of the Western Slope has averaged four to six degrees below normal for the month of December," says Lawrence.

The cold temperatures and snow cover has also affected the wildlife on the Western Slope. "The snow will push them to lower elevations and put them in concentrated areas where they can find food," says Randy Hampton of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Herds of wildlife usually move closer to the Grand Valley in the winter because our lack of snow makes it easier to survive. This year our snow cover has many animals searching for food, bringing them closer to homes and roads. "If these conditions linger into March or April we could see significant impacts on herds," says Hampton.

It's not all bad news, snow cover can actually be beneficial. "It acts as an insulating blanket so the cold temps don't penetrate as deeply into the soil," says Dennis Hill of Bookcliff Gardens Nursery. That helps delicate roots survive the below zero nights that would normally kill most plants. It helps fight off drought, too. "More than anything it shades the soil from the sun and keeps it from drying out," says Hill. Setting the scene for a greener healthier spring.

While the record for the longest number of days with snow is 94, the second longest is only 63, which under the current conditions looks possible to break.

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