#Drought news: #Utah water managers celebrate the 2018-2019 snow accumulation season

From The Deseret News (Katie McKellar):

Utah water managers had a big reason to celebrate Friday [May 10, 2019].

Thanks to this year’s snowpack and runoff, Utah’s drought is officially over — at least for now…

It would have been a tough wager to predict Utah would obliterate its drought designation from October of last year after a dismal 2018 gave Utah one of the country’s worst drought designations, yet “we did it in six months’ time,” McInerney said…

Water managers, hydrologists and storm forecasters have been keeping a close eye on Utah’s mountain ranges over the past month, wary of the possibility warm temperatures could rapidly melt this year’s high snowpack and cause damaging flooding.

But Utah’s bipolar weather patterns over the last several weeks have created the perfect conditions to avoid flooding while also filling just about all of the state’s reservoirs…

thanks to several warm-then-cold spells over the last month, Utah still has thick snowpack in high elevations — even creating statistical anomalies in southeastern Utah, where snowpack sits about a mammoth, nearly record-breaking 8,500 percent of average.

“Southeast did fantastic,” said Troy Brosten, Utah Snow Survey supervisor with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

And in high elevations across state, “there’s still quite a bit of snow up there,” Brosten said. “It’s holding pretty good.”

As a result, some reservoirs are already releasing water in anticipation of more runoff. Nearly all of Utah’s reservoirs are expected to fill, with some exceptions including Strawberry (due to its size) and Steinaker Reservoir, which was drained for repair, according to Gary Henrie, a civil engineer with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Lake Powell, which has struggled due to the nearly 20-year drought on the Colorado River, obviously won’t fill — but it’s expected to see an about 11 percent peak increase. That could mean an almost 50-foot rise in waters for the boating destination, Henrie said.

Along the Wasatch Front, it’s likely rivers will be flowing their highest around the end of May — particularly rivers fed from high elevations such as Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, McInerney said.

West Drought Monitor May 7, 2019.

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