It was all or nothing as far as the past winter snows went for the state of Colorado, and as a result today some locations see a record run off while other places see drought conditions. The San Luis Valley and Sangre de Cristo Mountains sadly were on the short side for snowfall, so that means drought conditions for our area this coming summer, unless a big precipitation event changes the conditions fast.
La Niña conditions have continued to influence the state’s weather for months now, with above-average moisture in most of Colorado, but the southeastern plains of Colorado continue to deal with deteriorating drought conditions, with the Rio Grande basin and the Southwestern corner of the state also experiencing below average precipitation.
New snow water equivalent records have been reported at 46 measuring sites within the central and northern mountains. Statewide, reservoir storage is near or above average, with many northern and central Colorado locations seeing flooding during this runoff season. That isn’t the case in this neck of the woods.
As of May’s report, statewide, snowpack is at 147% of average, with six of eight basins above 100% of average. The Yampa/ White basin has the highest percent snowpack at 179% of average; the Colorado, Gunnison, Arkansas, North Platte and South Platte sit at 165%, 145%, 116%, 172%, and 153% of average, respectively. The basins in the southwest corner of the state: the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan, are near normal at 94% of average. However, for the Rio Grande basin, which includes our area, this basin remains below normal at 85% of average.
According to US drought monitors, The San Luis Valley is mainly split into two levels of drought conditions, D1 and D2. The eastern half of the valley, along with most of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the greater Crestone area, has now deteriorated to D2, which means severe drought conditions are taking place. If these conditions continue, the threat of local wells running dry and of out-of-control forest fires is a major concern for our area.
Still, with a little bit of luck, things could change, as was the case in mid-May for the northern Front Range of Colorado, which in a matter of days pulled out of their drought with heavy rains. Let’s hope that will be the case for the Rio Grande basin before the dead (and dry) of summer hits. Although our area saw some snow in mid-May that slowed down the snowmelt some, it left little up high in the mountains where our area gets its drinking water.