A New Year’s Day storm is expected to dump a moderate amount of snow across Southwest Colorado, but not enough to change severe drought conditions being experienced by this corner of the state, even though much of the region is enjoying 130% of average snowpack.
According the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of Dec. 24, all of Montezuma County and all but the northern edge of La Plata County and the eastern edge of Archuleta County remain listed in severe drought. Virtually all of Dolores, Montrose and Ouray counties are also designated in a severe drought.
As of New Year’s Eve, the severe drought designation remains despite an above-average snowpack for Southwest Colorado.
A Snotel map shows 130% of the 30-year average snowpack for the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel river basins.
A large part of Colorado’s Western Slope remains in severe or moderate drought.
In fact, only the northeast section of the state, including the Denver metro area and the northern mountains around Steamboat Springs, are not under some kind of drought listing.
In all, nearly 70% of Colorado is abnormally dry or in moderate or severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. A year ago, about 85% of the state had some kind of drought status, including 11% that was listed as being in exceptional drought.
Despite the continued dry conditions, forecasters say things are better than they were last year at this time when exceptional and extreme drought – the worst categories – had set in. Over the past three months, parts of southern Arizona and New Mexico recovered but portions of Utah and Colorado dried out.
A New Year’s Day snowstorm is expected to add to Southwest Colorado’s snowpack and aid in bringing the region out of severe drought.
The storm is expected to bring 3 to 6 inches to the San Juan Mountains and may bring less than an half inch of snow to lower elevations, including Cortez, Durango and Pagosa Springs.
“The storm is going to favor northern Colorado, but you should still see some snow in the San Juans. It depends on how far south the storm moves,” said Megan Stackhouse, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Stackhouse said snow could start the morning of New Year’s Day, but snowfall is expected to be heaviest from late afternoon New Year’s Day into the evening. She expected snow to be measured in the tenths of inches in Cortez, Durango and Pagosa Springs, with Pagosa Springs holding the potential to see up to a half inch.
In higher elevations, Telluride could see 2 inches of snow during the day and up to 4 inches Wednesday night. Silverton could see an inch during the day on New Year’s and up to 3 inches New Year’s night.
Snow could linger into the early hours of Friday in the San Juan Mountains, Stackhouse said.
After this storm, Stackhouse said a drying trend is expected in Southwest Colorado with the Weather Service not expecting any potential of snow in the region through Jan. 8.
firstname.lastname@example.org The Associated Press contributed to this report.