San Juan County moves out of severe drought
Mar 05, 2019 | 4519 views | 0 0 comments | 437 437 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Alene Laney

My son, Samuel, has a neat trick. His hair is curly, and it tightens on his head just before we get some precipitation. Conversely, when it’s going to be dry, his hair is relatively straight. A week ago Sunday, his curls were about as tight as they’d ever been. Sure enough, the next day we received nearly a foot of snow. A few days after that, another couple of feet of snow blanketed the area.

The latest storms took San Juan County out of a severe drought. Every week, the U.S. Drought Monitor releases a map of drought conditions throughout the United States. On the February 28 report, most of San Juan County was downgraded from a severe drought to moderate drought (see chart). At the beginning of the year, much of San Juan County was still in an extreme or exceptional drought despite fall rains, so the move to a moderate drought is great news.

The Drought Monitor reported that recent cold conditions maximized snow accumulations and more widespread precipitation is likely to come in March, which should promote further drought reductions.

Don Andrews, District Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), agrees with this assessment. “It’ll all depend on the next couple storms, but we’re looking much better than we have for a very long time.”

The relentless onslaught of white flakes is a much-needed miracle for our drought-stricken land.

Monticello, in particular, depends on snowfall for moisture. According to the Western Regional Climate Center, Monticello averages 15 inches of rain and 59 inches of snow per year. Comparatively, averages for the U.S. are 39 inches of rain and 26 inches of snow.  

In other words, Monticello doesn’t get a lot of rain, but does receive much higher than average snowfall. We are almost completely dependent on snow for moisture. If we don’t get snow, we’re going to struggle with the amount of water collected in our reservoirs.

Currently, the snow at Camp Jackson is 169 percent of normal. There’s no question this moisture is beneficial. The real question is how it will affect us – both agricultural producers and residents alike.

The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center reports it is likely San Juan County – and the rest of Utah for that matter – will come out of the drought altogether this year.

It is likely then, that runoff will replenish depleted reservoirs. Soil moisture profiles are already starting to fill up. And you might be able to let your kids run through the sprinklers once or twice this summer.

In the meantime, I’ll be watching Samuel’s hair for the forecast. Hopefully, there will be many more curly hair days ahead of us.
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