|This week and early into next, in spite of fleeting showers, Custer County will most likely continue to experience the dry and drying effects of local weather patterns prevalent this spring.
Wishing he “had better news” to report, Pueblo-based National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Wolyn said earlier this week that “there is no big, deep type of a widespread rainfall event” in sight for our immediate neighborhood. Storms on the way, of which we might see traces here, will moisten the eastern plains and northern Colorado, where, Wolyn says, “the weather regime is quite different.” But the chances of these storms having any long term impact on the Valley are very slim.
The “impact” on local conditions affecting ranching, any form of spring planting, and wildfire cautions is more significantly climatological than meteorological. The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center continued to list our area in “severe drought” at the conclusion of the April readings. Even Wolyn, whose portfolio does not include long range climate outlooks, nevertheless noted the record lows in area SNOTEL readings and ground moisture content.
Immediately close to home, the Grape Creek volume measurement in the Valley through April was reading only 22 percent of the 30 year averages ending in 2010. Our closest SNOTEL station, South Colony at 10,800 feet, has seen snow depth disappear there in May from both melt and evaporation; on May 1, a mere three inches lay on the ground, and slowly dissipated until zero was recorded last Saturday, where it remains as of this report.
While South Colony is ending the season at a 38 percent of the average or normal readings, the heavy contribution of snows and water equivalency in other areas of the Upper Arkansas Basin—Fremont Pass, for example—off set this scarcity from the Sangres. Thanks to that, the Arkansas River and the Pueblo reservoir are running and retaining water flow at comfortable levels.
Still, concerns remain local, for the conditions here and now. Shannon Auth, Custer County Extension Agent recently commented on “the really dry summer ahead,” given the little to no snowpack in the Sangres. “We just need to be smart about irrigating and watering,” she said, encouraging using the early morning or evening for those needed practices. “And catch anything you can,” she continued, “like rain barrels…Water will be tough to come by.”
Auth added that “unfortunately these current conditions are ideal for weeds. This is another issue about drought. We need to be cautious about weeds, for when they do get some moisture, they’ll grow, well, like weeds!”
Without much else to do other than follow the weather reports and watch the sky, Valley residents hopefully will continue to use good judgment and communal sense in outdoor water usage.
Yet many residents and visitors are even troubled in watching the sky, as eyes, rather than the skies, water profusely in the high pollen counts in the area. In spite of the dryness, flowers, shrubs and trees are pollinating, doing their spring fling. Today’s pollen count was forecast to be the week’s high at 8.8, a “medium-high” on the 12 point scale used in pollen alerts. There might be some respite ahead Saturday and Sunday, when a 60 to 80 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area could possibly clear the air for a bit. Still, the challenge of drought is nothing to sneeze at.
– W.A. Ewing