A powerful spring storm that dumped more than 3 feet of snow in some parts of the Rockies closed a major national trucking route for more than 24 hours, snapped power lines and drew skiers to the slopes of Colorado’s only remaining open ski area. Just to the south, some Arizona communities are rationing water because of drought, and to the west, drought-parched California is bracing for another week of hot weather that could fuel more wildfires. Welcome to springtime in the West, where May snowstorms are coinciding with the start to the region’s wildfire season — and doing little to alleviate the overall regional drought.
Spring is normally the wettest time of year in the Rockies. While snowfall is common in the mountains in May, significant snowfall at lower elevations like Denver in May only occurs every five or 10 years, Colorado state climatologist Nolan Doesken said. Denver got between 4 and 7 inches of typical heavy, wet spring snow. While much of it didn’t stick to the warm ground, it weighed down trees just sprouting spring leaves and led gardeners to cover flowers and plants with plastic sheets and buckets. A freeze is expected to follow before warmer weather returns Tuesday.
After lots of snow in March and April, many Colorado ski resorts added extra days of skiing.