Utah's Drought Picture Continues To Improve After Stormy February
February’s wet weather has helped ease drought’s grip on Utah, as heavier than normal rain and snow have resulted in a statewide snowpack that’s at normal or better.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, published Thursday, shows most of the state with some dryness or drought but no areas in the worst categories of “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. The state’s southwestern corner has been officially drought-free since the end of February, the first time in more than a year that at least a patch of the state is not unusually dry.
For the first time in more than a year, a part of Utah is drought-free. Washington County in southwest Utah lost even the lowest rating, "abnormally dry," in late February, according to the latest data contained in the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Credit U.S. Drought Monitor
Utah’s river basins continue to recover this winter after a severely dry summer — the driest on record and one of the hottest, said Brian McInerney, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.
“Utah, for the most part, has healed up quite well,” he said. “And, if things keep going the way we surmise, then we should be out of drought category by the end of spring.”
A report from the Natural Resources Conservation Service called last month’s double-the-normal precipitation “fantastic.” Snowpack is up to 120 percent of normal in northern Utah basins and as much as 162 percent of normal in the southern basins.
McInerney said stormy weather is forecasted for at least another two weeks, and that will help fill all but the largest reservoirs, such as Lake Powell and Bear Lake. More cold, wet weather through the spring would be ideal, he said.
Southeastern Utah had a drought bullseye through much of last summer and fall, and the rain and snow has been welcome throughout the Four Corners. Just across the Utah-Colorado border from San Juan County in Cortez, Colo., hay farmer Danny Decker harvested just half of his normal spring crop because of the lack of rain. The drought cut the fall growing season by almost two months.
He said the 1,800 acres he farms is muddy now.
“I was talking to somebody the other day [and] I said: ‘You know I’m not complainin’ about the mud. I’m braggin’ about it,’” Decker recalled with a laugh.
Even if the precipitation slows, the soil should be saturated enough to guarantee a good crop for him and other farmers in the region, he said.
“As soon as it warms up, things will green up,” Decker said.