Recent rain, snow nibbles away at Colorado’s drought conditions

For the first time this year, a small white patch appears on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s map of Colorado, signifying the only area in the state no longer experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

That patch, east of Steamboat Springs, covers a portion of southwest Jackson County and a sliver of Larimer County’s western border, accounts for just 1% of the state’s area, Drought Monitor data indicates. But it’s a start.

The rest of the state still ranges in between “abnormally dry” and an “exceptional drought,” but recent rain and snowfall this week began nibbling away at those massive swathes of dry land.

The same thing happened last year, although the drought began to recede in April rather than June.

One complicating factor, climatologists have told The Denver Post, is that the soils around the state are so dry that it takes more water than normal for them to bounce back from the dry season. Colorado didn’t see an excess of snow over the winter that those experts hoped for, not enough to fully quench the state’s parched soils and streams.

While that drought is receding slightly, state officials like Gov. Jared Polis, say they’re bracing for what could be the worst wildfire year in Colorado’s history. Some worry specifically about the Eastern Plains and the southwest corner of the state.

Snowpack conditions in northern Colorado improved this week after a bout of storms, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Levels around Steamboat Springs are 109% of normal levels for this time of the year, the data shows. Snowpack around Aspen sits at 92% of normal. The biggest boost came for the Fort Collins, Boulder and Denver corridor, which sits at 142% of normal levels. And the area around Colorado Springs and Pueblo sits at 102% of normal.

Still lagging is the area around Gunnison and Ouray, which sits at 50% of normal snowpack, the data shows.

And in the red zone sits the Alamosa and Durango areas with 4% and 3% of normal snowpack, respectively.

By this time last year more than half the state was no longer considered to be in a drought, data shows. However at that same time last year more than 16% of Colorado was considered to be in “exceptional drought” compared to less than 1% this year.

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