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122 Days: St. George Sets New Record For Longest Dry Spell In City History

Flocks of birds float on the surface of a lake. Cliff face, shining with alpenglow, rise up behind them.
Photo courtesy of Washington County Water Conservancy District.
The Sand Hollow reservoir, shown above, is part of the Washington County Water Service District's water management system. The district's reservoirs are currently 78% full, despite abnormally dry weather across the region.

It has been a year of extreme weather in St. George. 

On the heels of the wettest winter and spring on record, the city has now gone 122 consecutive days without one hundredth of an inch of rain. It’s the longest stretch without any measurable precipitation since the National Weather Service began keeping records for the city in 1893. The previous record of 121 days was set in 1929.

The city’s dryness is part of pattern of abnormally dry weather across the southwestern United States brought on by the absence of the region’s typical summer monsoons — an aberration that experts say is the direct result of climate change. 

“What you see are these enhanced weather patterns: more extreme heat, more extreme drought,” said Brian McInerney, hydrologist and climate expert with the National Weather Service. “And then when the wet periods do get there, much more intense rainfall. But those periods are becoming father and few between.”

McInerney says extreme weather will only become more common in Utah as climate change intensifies, adding that the temperature is predicted to increase by 10 degrees fahrenheit statewide by the year 2100. 

Despite the dry weather, Washington County’s water supplies are still in good shape because of heavy rain and snowfall earlier this year, says Zach Renstrom, deputy general manager at the Washington County Water Conservancy District. 

“At this point, we’re still at a good level,” he said. “But every day that goes by without any rain or precipitation is a little bit more sleep I lose at night.”

Renstrom says that the county’s soil is now extremely dry, which will make it difficult to capture any water that comes next winter. 

Correction 1:45 p.m. 10/17/19: A previous version of this article misspelled Zach Renstrom’s last name.

David Fuchs is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George.

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