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Historic snowpack

Historic flood threat for West


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18 May 11 – Yesterday as I drove east from Libby, Montana into Kalispell, I kept seeing lakes that didn’t appear on my map. Then I noticed fence posts sticking out of the water. Miles of fence posts, with only 2, 3, 4 inches of their tops poking out of the newly formed lakes now covering the fields.

Kalispell residents are concerned that this is just the beginning, because  snowpack  in the mountains is more than 200 percent of normal. Where you’d normally see only snow-covered peaks, new snow is still visible far down the sides of the mountains.

That’s because temperatures in the west have been running 10 to 20 degrees below normal. Authorities worry that when those temperatures return to normal, the snow, which normally melts over the course of several weeks, will all melt very quickly, leading to historic flooding.

And the snow keeps coming. Winter storms keep hammering the Rockies, piling even more snow on top of  already record levels.

Colorado’s mountain snowpack now measures more than 200 percent of normal, Wyoming's measures up to 250 percent of normal, and in some parts of the northern Utah mountains the snowpack measures an incredible 400 percent above normal with more on the way.

Up to a foot of fresh snow is forecast this week for the northern Utah mountains and then head  toward Colorado and Wyoming.

The National Weather Service says up to 3 inches of rain is predicted in parts of southeast Wyoming, while up to a foot of snow is forecast for the mountains. Up to 18 inches of snow is forecast for the northern Colorado mountains, where the record snowpack levels are almost too deep to measure. Snow in the higher elevations, where the greatest snowpack has accumulated, hasn't even begun to melt in most of places.

"At this point, everybody is just sitting back chewing fingernails and waiting because the longer it stays cold and wet, the worse it's going to get," said Randy Julander, a supervisor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"June is right around the corner and sooner or later, it's going to warm up," said Julander, noting that the West will likely see a rapid rise in temperatures heading into summer, a worst case scenario

The last time the West saw such unusual prolonged cold weather with steady rain and snow was in 1983 when massive flooding caused substantial damage.

"That's when we had terrible flooding in Utah and across the West. The Colorado River went absolutely wild for about a month," Julander said. "The amount of water up there in the mountains is phenomenal and it's going to melt sooner or later. You're looking at an event that certainly only happens maybe once every 20, 30, even 50 years."
Thanks to Thomas McHart for this link






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