Drought conditions worsen; good news is water storage levels are high
It’s already been an abnormally warm and dry winter for Southeastern Colorado, and there’s little relief in sight: Drought conditions are forecast to continue expanding across the region for the foreseeable future.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal agency that tracks precipitation levels and drought conditions across the country, the entirety of Southern Colorado is currently seeing conditions ranging from abnormally dry to extreme drought.
"Pueblo proper has seen at least some precipitation.
In February we were above normal, and in January I believe we were very close to normal, … but the southeast plains and especially the southwestern corner of Colorado have been extremely dry over the last three to six months."
The Drought Monitor report notes that severe drought conditions have expanded across the southeastern part of the state to include all of Kiowa, Bent, Prowers, Mineral, Rio Grande, Alamosa, Costilla and Baca Counties, while also encompassing most of Huerfano, Las Animas, Crowley, Saguache and Otero counties and the southern half of Custer County.
Moderate drought conditions have been seen across the majority of South Central and Southeastern Colorado, including Pueblo County, as well as the western portions of Chaffee County and eastern portions of Fremont, Teller and El Paso counties.
"We’ve been in a La Nina pattern, which is conducive to very dry conditions across the area for the winter," Wankowski said.
The current lack of precipitation is expected to continue for several weeks: Wankowski said the forecast currently shows above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation continuing into June.
In addition to fire danger, the high temperatures and low precipitation levels have contributed to low moisture levels in soils; fortunately for Southeastern Colorado, the area is currently benefitting from a surplus of water storage built up through precipitation gathered in years past, Wankowski said.
"The Arkansas River Basin storage is 140 percent of normal thanks to a very wet couple of springs and last winter being above normal for snowfall.