The mountains surrounding Pinedale are socked with deep snow, with the Upper Green sitting at 188 percent of normal as of March 9, while the Wind River Range is at 189 percent of normal for snowpack.
PINEDALE – Unless you lived in Pinedale back in the winter of 1971-72, you haven’t experienced a winter like this before. With recent snowfall leading up to March 1, the additional accumulations in recent weeks pushed this winter into the top slot for the snowiest season since records for Pinedale were first kept back in the winter of 1948-49.
As of March 1, Pinedale has recorded 138 inches of the white stuff this winter, which is half an inch more than the previous record set in 1971-72.
What has fallen this season is a far cry from what the area saw last year, when only 67.5 inches fell during the winter of 2015-16. The lowest snowfall came in 1960-61, where only 15.2 inches were recorded.
The third snowiest winter on record wasn’t too long ago, as 131 inches fell in 2013-14, while the winter of 1974-75 holds the No. 4 spot at 102.3 inches. Another recent snowy winter season was back in 2008-09, when 101.5 inches were recorded.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Jones, the mean, or half above and half below, for Pinedale in terms of snowfall is 59.1 inches, which has been more than doubled this season.
“We’re 200-plus percent of mean snowfall this year,” he said.
Pinedale shattered the amount from 1960-61 in October alone this year, as 22 inches fell to set a new snowfall record for the month and set the tone for what was to follow. November saw 13.5 inches of snow, which was the 15th snowiest on record, while December’s 28 inches ranked fourth in the record books. The New Year got off to a strong start with 44 inches coming in January, which is the second-highest amount on record. First place for January came in the year of 1971-72, when 68 inches of snow were recorded. In February of this year, Pinedale saw 30.5 inches of snow.
Jones says our current record is likely to grow as data suggests almost 18 inches of snow typically falls from March through June.
It could be possible that residents could see something this month like what occurred back on March 23-24, 1996, when 27 inches fell over the course of two days. An event like that would almost certainly solidify this winter season in the record books for years to come.
“Maybe we don’t want a repeat of that,” Jones laughed.
As of March 1, Pinedale had 25 inches of snow on the ground. With additional accumulations since that date, the actual snow depth is a little higher, Jones said.
Pinedale isn’t alone in terms of lots of snow on the ground, as the Upper Green River Basin is sitting at 188 percent of normal as of March 9, while the Wind River Range is at 189 percent of normal.
“The Wind River snowpack is exceptional,” Jones said.
With so much snow on the ground, he says flood potential is expected to be high this spring; however, it really all depends on what kind of weather unfolds as April, May and June roll around.
“The factors we’re looking at is: How fast does it run off, what are the day-to-day temperatures and how frozen is the ground?” he said. “If it melts in small pieces, it won’t be a problem.”
He says each year is different in terms of how the snow runs off, and that flooding can occur even in years when snowpack numbers are low if a rapid melt occurs, along with other factors.
In the short-term forecast for the next eight to 14 days, there is a very good chance of above normal temperatures through March 22, according to Jones. At the same time, precipitation is expected to be above normal, coming both as snow and rain. Rain is a good method to melt snow, which Jones said could become a concern if conditions are ripe for a flooding scenario.
Jones expects the months of April and May to bring above normal temperatures, and says the summer in general is looking to trend toward warmer than average as a whole.
He notes that in the winter of 2013-14, which is the third-snowiest winter on record, April and May had 20 inches of snow, so it’s hard to know what the coming months will bring.
“If we were to do that again this year, this would be far and away the top season of all time,” he said.