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Wyoming snowpack remains below average - Gillette News Record: News

Wyoming snowpack remains below average

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Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 10:29 am, Tue Nov 5, 2013.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Precipitation and snowpack levels this winter have remained below normal across Wyoming, which doesn't bode well for the state's water supply.

"Everybody's below average," Jim Fahey, a National Weather Service hydrologist, said Tuesday. "The northern areas are doing better than the southern areas, but overall, we're still below normal."

February precipitation in state river basins was 85 to 90 percent of average, and the mountain snowpack across the state continues to lag at around 80 to 85 percent of average.

Mountain snowpack was highest across northern Wyoming, varying between 85 and 95 percent of normal while it was lowest in southern Wyoming, at 65 to 80 percent of normal.

Wyoming relies heavily on the mountain snowpack to replenish its reservoirs when the snow melts during the spring and summer. The reservoirs are the state's main supply of drinking and irrigation water.

So far, Wyoming's reservoirs are mostly near their average capacities for this time of year, Fahey said.

"We had a dry summer so we used a lot of our water, but we had a lot from the previous couple of years," he said.

The Seminoe and Pathfinder reservoirs in south-central Wyoming are lower than average, while Boysen, Buffalo Bill, Fontenelle, Jackson and other reservoirs around the state are near the levels they should be at this time of year, Fahey said.

However, another dry spring and summer would likely deplete most reservoirs in the state to critically low levels.

Under current weather service projections, snowmelt volumes into Wyoming streams are expected to be below normal across a majority of basins in Wyoming.

"The forecasts are going to be pretty low if we don't get any additional snowpack," Fahey said.

Late March, April, May and early June is a key period for precipitation in Wyoming and for determining how much runoff streams and reservoirs will get during the year, he said.

"Some of the areas east of the divide get over half their precipitation in that time period for the year," Fahey said.

Forecasts for the spring in Wyoming aren't clear at this time.

"We're looking at about a 50-50 chance of above and below precipitation for that crucial three-month period," Fahey said.

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