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RBC | The first two weeks of 2018 have seen a continuation of dry weather as the local region plunges further into drought-like conditions.
According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, the western half of Rio Blanco County is currently experiencing Moderate Drought conditions with less than 30 percent of normal precipitation. The Eastern side of the county is considered Abnormally Dry.
The Colorado Snow Survey lists Rio Blanco County at 66 percent of normal snow pack.
The dry weather has put pressure on area ranchers as they are forced to continue hauling water to livestock that would normally lick snow. Jon Hill, owner of the Cripple Cowboy Cow Outfit, expressed concerns about the health impact of the extra dust in the air on the livestock. He’s also worried about the long term ability of area wells and springs and what the spring and summer grasses will be like without enough running water. But it’s not just his ranch that Hill is concerned about. “The bigger issue isn’t just one ranch,” he said. “This could impact the Colorado River Compact.”
The Colorado River Compact governs individual state’s allocation of water from the river. If river flow is low states may begin to feel pressure to allow less water for industrial and agricultural usage so that enough continue to flow downstream.
Gary Moyer, vice president of the White River Conservation District, is hopeful that some much needed moisture will soon arrive and alleviate concerns about a lack of moisture in the soil. “We are all holding our breath,” he said. “It could change rapidly in the coming months.”
According to the Climate Prediction Center organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, the next three months are likely to bring the possibility of near normal precipitation to the county coupled with above normal temperatures. Jim Pringle with Grand Junction NOAA Office said the weather is currently tracking normal for a La Nina pattern which typically brings the storm track to the northern states and drier weather to the south. An El Nino year tracks the opposite with precipitation to the south and dry weather in the north.
The dry start to winter is not unheard of. One hundred years ago the Meeker Herald reported very similar conditions of little to no snow and concerns that there wouldn’t be any ice to cut. However, the mostly anecdotal historical record may provide some hope. If the weather cycle continues to follow the pattern of 1918, we’ll have snow by the end of the month.