Extreme to Severe Drought Continues in Southeast Colorado


The National Weather Service reports that April brought some needed precipitation to portions of the eastern mountains and adjacent plains, drought conditions continue to advance in the far southeast plains and San Luis Valley.

The current U.S. Drought monitor for early May, indicates extreme drought conditions across Baca County as well as extreme eastern Las Animas County, Bent County and southwestern Prowers County. Severe drought conditions are found across the rest of Las Animas County, Bent and Prowers Counties, as well as Kiowa, Crowley, Otero, Pueblo, El Paso and Teller Counties.

Fire danger remains high to extreme across most of southeast and south central Colorado. Fire bans and restrictions have been posted for several cities and counties, as well as BLM lands across most of south central and southeast Colorado. Fire ban conditions are an almost daily occurrence in some of these areas.

The latest USDA Colorado Crop Report rates 59% of top soil moisture across the state as short or very short compared to only 6% the same time last year. Subsoil moisture is also reported to be dry across Colorado with 66% being rated at short or very short, compared to only 7% 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 60 to 80 millimeters (2 to 3 inches). The Colorado Wheat Crop Report states that pasture and range feed conditions were rated at mostly fair across the state.

Temperatures were mostly above average across the area in April. Precipitation totals for that month were generally below average across the region except for areas along the Continental Divide. As of May 1, snowpack in the upper Rio Grande Basin was down to 72% of average overall. This is only 80% of the snowpack present last year at this time and is the lowest May 1st figure for the basin in the last four years. The Rio Grande Basin is also in the unenviable position of having the lowest May 1 snowpack in the major basins in Colorado. In the Arkansas Basin, the May 1st snowpack was 112% of average overall and 126% of last year’s snowpack at this time. There are sharp contrasts in snowpack distribution with snowpack at the headwaters of the Arkansas at 132% of average, while the Purgatoire wastershed in the southeastern part of the basin was indicating a mere 19% of average snowpack which is the lowest sub-basin snowpack in the state.

Overall reservoir storage is running below average across the southern section of Colorado. May 1st storage in the Rio Grande Basin was at 79% of average overall. The Arkansas Basin had storage levels at 86%, 21% lower than last year. Stream flows were also below average for the south. The Arkansas basin shows April to September volumes along the mainstem of the Arkansas River are still expected to be at or above average while southern tributaries look to remain well below average such as the Cucharas River near La Veta, forecast to generate only 38% of average runoff.

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