LARAMIE, Wyo. — With forecasters increasingly expectant of an El Niño in the first months of 2019, Albany County is currently on track to bring irrigators ample water, and possible flooding, next year.
As of Monday, the Laramie River Basin’s snowpack sits at 135 percent of the median for the end of November. That percent is among the highest for Wyoming river basins.
The South Platte Basin’s snowpack in northern Colorado, which typically fuels about half of the Albany County’s annual runoff, is even higher.
However, current snowpack data is not a reliable indicator of prospects for the county’s spring runoff. Typically, at least two-thirds of the Laramie River Basin’s annual snowpack arrives after November.
While the Laramie River Basin’s snowpack has been substantial in recent years, NOAA hydrologist Jim Fahey noted Albany County has remained “pretty dang dry the last couple years.”
“You didn’t benefit from the rainfall late in the season,” he said.
In 2018, he said the Laramie River’s water supply was “well below average.” So too were peak streamflows. As a result, soil moisture in Albany County still remains below normal.
Despite that, Albany County and the Snowy Range’s western front are the only places in Wyoming the Fahey listed as having at least “moderate” flood potential in 2019. That “very early” prediction, he said, is based on climate forecasts for the spring.
While El Niño is not currently expected to affect most of Wyoming, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s November report said there’s at least a 33 percent chance Albany County’s precipitation in both winter and spring will exceed the norm.