As temperatures rise in Southern Colorado our snowpack continues to melt off. This is expected, but the pace is the problem. This, combined with already dry conditions for SE Colorado, could lead to big problems as we head into the summer. The southeastern plains are already dealing with severe levels of drought after missing out on a lot of the beneficial moisture that the front range picked up on earlier in the season. Farmers in the area rely heavily on rain, snow and water from the Arkansas River and none of these are in high supply.
Peter Bennett Goble, a drought specialist from the Colorado Climate Center, says “the normal to above normal moisture that we did experience over the winter was not shared in the eastern plains, so we fear that the agricultural sector may be the first and hardest hit.”
The good news is that we saw our snowpack for the Arkansas River Basin peak above average. The thing that’s setting us back is the warmth. We’re watching that snowpack deplete quickly and that is expected to continue with above average warmth in the forecast through the summer.
Warmth and drought are never good things to hear together in S Colorado, especially heading into fire season. Goble says our one saving grace could be a wet May, that will help to keep the fire season from being severe, so we have to hope for a rainy end to Spring and start to Summer. A few good soaking rains will help the situation. The worst case scenario for us could bring a repeat of the 2018 fire season that sparked the 416 and Spring Creek Fires.
Goble says “traditionally our biggest fire seasons have been when we’ve gone into June dry.”
The bottom line is that the saying “it’s always fire season in Colorado” holds true here, especially when we are dealing with drought. Prepare for fire season and use water wisely.