Our area was on the outer edges of this hundred-year occurrence. Instead of downpours that caused severe damage, it was a week of gentle rains that came intermittently, soaked deep into the soil and did no known property damage.
Heavy clouds gathered over southeastern Utah on Friday, December 17 and the drizzles began. Until the morning of December 24, when residents arose to clear skies, there was virtually no time when the roads were dry or when the mountain could be seen through low hanging clouds.
At the snotel precipitation measuring station at Camp Jackson, located at 9,000 feet on the Abajo Mountains, there was a total of 1.5 inches of water in 8 inches of snow Friday the 17th.
For the next six days, slightly more than an inch of water was added each day to the snow pack, and the morning of Christmas Eve, there were 8.5” of water in the heavy wet snow pack. That is seven inches of water in six days.
Local farmers and ranchers said they could never remember a December rainstorm of this duration and moisture content. Rain gauges around the county ranged from three to six inches of water depending on location.
Most of the non-mountainous areas of San Juan County receive 7-17” of moisture per year depending on location. In this single week, we received 40 percent of our annual total.
Several farmers and ranchers said that if they had been given the opportunity to order in a December storm from Mother Nature, they would not have ordered what came this last week, because this kind of storm has never occurred and it was almost too wonderful to imagine.
Said one local farmer as he looked out over his fields last Thursday afternoon, “If you would have told us that we could get five or six inches of rain in a single week with no erosion damage, we would not have believed it. This was the perfect storm, if there ever was one.”
With world wheat prices above $8 per bushel at the moment and with the winter wheat crop safely in the ground throughout San Juan County and with moisture far above average on our mountain watersheds, everyone will be sitting in the catbird seat next year, even if we have just an average winter from here on out.