#Drought news: Folks across #Colorado are cautiously optimistic after wet winter

West Drought Monitor March 19, 2019.

From The Summit Daily (Deepak Dutta) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Over the past month, Colorado has gone from nearly 70 percent of the state in drought to less than 5 percent. That drenching happened over the past month, a four-week period that included the snowiest early March that most Summit residents can remember. Yet it remains to be seen whether the season’s precipitation will put much of a dent on the region’s near-20-year drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, which uses water flow levels and other data to assess drought conditions across the country, shows that only 6.4 percent of the state’s land area is experiencing drought conditions, with 46.1 percent being considered at least “abnormally dry.” Compare that to the middle of February, when 67.2 percent of the state was in a drought and 91.8 percent abnormally dry.

For Summit County, the difference has been especially staggering. Summit and 39.7 percent of Colorado were experiencing at least a “severe drought” on Feb. 19. Today, the county is back to normal conditions, with only 0.6 percent of the state experiencing severe drought or worse…

And while the new precipitation is very promising, it is just one drop in the stream of time. According to the drought monitor, Colorado has been experiencing sustained dryness since the late ’90s. Since 2000, the longest duration of drought in Colorado lasted 395 weeks, or nearly eight years, beginning in October 2001 and ending in May 2009.

“The drought monitor is a snapshot of what’s happening now and ramifications into this upcoming summer,” said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District. “But there’s a longer-term picture, the long-term drought from the year 2000 through this year.”

Pokrandt said that since 2000, Colorado has only had four years at or above average levels. The 2018-19 winter will be the fifth, but he said one big year does not end a long-term drought.

“If we have three or four more of these years of average snowpack, we might talk differently,” Pokrandt said. “But I would not say the drought’s back is broken.”

County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier echoed Pokrandt’s words of caution, noting that the drought was so bad just last summer that remnants of Old Dillon resurfaced from the bottom of the lake. There is a lot of recovery left to go, she said.

“We’ve had very high temperatures for March, and the snow is already starting to melt off,” Stiegelmeier said. “Just because we have all this precipitation now doesn’t mean that in two months that we won’t be dry again since we get most of our precipitation in March and April.”

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

SYNOPSIS

Abundant and much needed precipitation across Colorado`s High Country over the past few months has allowed the US Drought Monitor to indicate marked improvement in the drought that has plagued much of Colorado over the past year. Abundant precipitation through the first half of March, with statewide Colorado Snotel observations reporting 289 percent of average March precipitation through the first 19 days of the month, has allowed for continued improvement. With that said, the latest Drought Monitor, issued Thursday March 21st 2019, has removed all of the Extreme Drought (D3) conditions across the state, with Severe Drought (D2) conditions now confined to extreme southern portions of Costilla County, and extreme southwestern portions of Las Animas County.

Moderate Drought (D1) conditions are now depicted across most of the rest of Costilla County, extreme southeastern and southwestern portions of Conejos County, western portions of Las Animas County, the western 2/3rds of Huerfano County, eastern Custer County, extreme southwestern Pueblo County and south central portions of Fremont County.

Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions are now indicated across Mineral County, Rio Grande County and the rest of Conejos County, as well as, eastern portions of Saguache County, Alamosa County and extreme southwestern portions of Costilla County. Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions are also depicted across extreme southeastern Chaffee County and the rest of Fremont and Custer Counties, as well as, Teller County, most of El Paso County, and the rest of Pueblo County. Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions are also indicated Crowley County, western Kiowa County, extreme northwestern portions of Bent County, extreme eastern Otero and Huerfano Counties, as well as central into eastern portions of Las Animas County.

Drought free conditions are now indicated across western portions of Saguache County, most of Chaffee County, Lake County and extreme northern portions of El Paso County. Drought free conditions are also depicted across the rest of Kiowa, Bent, Otero and Las Animas Counties, as well as Prowers and Baca Counties.

FIRE DANGER

Fall and Winter precipitation has helped to ease fire danger across much of South Central and Southeast Colorado. However, with cured fuels and more windy weather associated with the early Winter Season, fire danger across non snow covered areas could be moderate to high at times into the early Spring.

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