Winter weather advisory issued for San Juan Mountains

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    By Clayton Chaney
    Staff Writer

    The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for the Southwest San Juan Mountains to last from Wednesday, March 3, at 11 p.m. until Thursday, March 4 at 5 p.m.

    The advisory calls for snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches throughout the region with “locally higher amounts possible.” 

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 25.5 inches of snow water equivalent as of 2 p.m. on March 3.

    That amount is 101 percent of the March 3 median for this site.

    The average snow water equivalent for this date at the Wolf Creek summit is 25.8 inches.

    The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins were at 79 percent of the March 3 median in terms of snowpack. This is a 6 percent decrease in snowpack for the region compared to last week’s report.

    Consistent with last week’s report, the southern San Juan district, which includes Wolf Creek Pass, has a moderate avalanche safety warning, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), as of 2 p.m. on March 3.

    According to the CAIC website, “A winter storm is moving toward Colorado and we expect rising avalanche danger on Thursday.”

    For information on more current avalanche conditions, go to https://www.avalanche.state.co.us/forecasts/backcountry-avalanche/south-san-juan/.

    Water report

    Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Manager Justin Ramsey outlined the current water levels in local lakes in a March 1 press release.

    According to the press release, Lake Forest is now completely full.

    Hatcher Lake rose 1 inch from last week’s report, bringing the current water level to 25 inches from full. 

    Stevens Lake water level also rose 1 inch from last week’s report, bringing the current water level to 54 inches from full.

    Lake Pagosa’s water level saw no change from last week’s report, remaining at 8 inches from full.

    The water level for Village Lake dropped 2 inches from last week’s report and is now listed at 6 inches from full.

    Total diversion flows are listed at 5 cubic feet per second (cfs).

    The West Fork diversion flow is listed at 3 cfs and the Four Mile diversion flow is listed at 2 cfs. 

    Water production from Feb. 19 through Feb. 25 was listed at a total of 10.8 million gallons. The Snowball water plant contributed 3.05 million gallons, while the Hatcher plant contributed 7.75 million gallons. 

    Last year, total water production was listed at 10.79 million gallons for those dates. 

    River report

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 59.2 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 3. 

    Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 87 cfs. 

    The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1986 at 359 cfs. The lowest recored rate was 29.3 cfs, recorded in 2002.

    An instantaneous reading was unavailable for the USGS station for the Piedra River near Arboles.

    It is noted on the USGS website for this station that the reading of the river flow rate is affected by ice at the station. 

    Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for March 3 is 152 cfs.

    The highest recorded rate was 573 cfs in 1995. The lowest recorded rate was 26.5 cfs in 2003.