Drought Expanding Across Southeast Colorado

La Nina conditions are expected to weaken into June, which is expected to bring dry conditions for the eastern plains and southern Colorado. The National Weather Service out of Pueblo reports the current U.S. Drought Monitor now indicates extreme drought conditions across Baca County as well as extreme eastern Las Animas County, extreme southeastern Bent County and extreme southwestern Prowers County. Severe to extreme drought conditions are also being experienced numerous counties in the southeast and south central portion of the state. These include: Alamosa, Saguache, Conejos, Teller, El Paso, Pueblo, Crowley, Otero and Kiowa Counties, plus portions of Fremont, Custer, Huerfano and Costilla Counties.

The fire danger remains very high to extreme across most of southeast Colorado, with multiple fire agencies having to extinguish multiple wildfires over the past two months due to persistent dry vegetation, coupled with periods of winds in excess of 35 miles per hour. Fire bans and restrictions have been implemented for the city of Colorado Springs as well as Baca, Prowers, Kiowa, Crowley, Otero, El Paso, Las Animas, Pueblo, Fremont, Huerfano and Teller counties. Fire bans have also been implemented for Bureau of Land Management lands across most of southeast and south central Colorado.

The lack of moisture has also impacted the agriculture growing season. The eastern plains are experiencing D2, severe drought conditions, and this has negatively impacted the winter wheat crop and livestock. About 80% of the wheat is rated fair to very poor. 68% of the pasture and rangelands are also rated fair to very poor. Although no counties have requested drought declarations, agriculture officials expect that will change once crop adjusters survey the fields. The latest USDA Colorado Crop Report rates 66% of top soil moisture across the state as short or very short compared to only 5% rated short or very short at the same time last year. (This report was issued by NWS on April 28). Subsoil moisture across Colorado is also reported to be dry with 65% being rated at short or very short, compared to only 6% at this time last year. CPC soil moisture calculations continue to indicate the dry conditions as well, with much of south central and all of southeast Colorado showing deficiencies of 40% to 70% of seasonal norms. The Colorado Crop Report also states that pasture and range feed conditions were rated at mostly fair to poor across the state.

March was a warm month for the state. Colorado Springs was 5.3 degrees above the monthly average for the 11th warmest March on record, the same honor for Alamosa, and Pueblo recorded the 25th warmest March on record. March precipitation fell below average. Alamosa recorded only 0.02 inches, the second driest March on record for the city. Colorado Springs figures showed just 0.54 inches for the month and Pueblo reported 0.65 inches, also below that city’s monthly average.

Filed Under: AgricultureEconomyEmploymentThe Journal AlertWeather


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