Recent storm puts dent in drought

Massive amount still required to produce major runoff

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The 10 inches of snow that fell in the past week has only made a small dent in the drought conditions in Southwest Colorado, according to a local weather forecaster.

Meteorologist Jim Andrus reported that 7.8 inches of snow fell between Dec. 14-16 and another 1.9 inches dropped on Dec. 19. On Dec. 9 another three-tenths of an inch was recorded in the city.

"That's a good month," Andrus said. "We average two feet of snow in the winter."

Snow is forecast for both Christmas and Christmas Eve but it is not expected to produce too much accumulation.

Every 10 inches of snow equates to one inch of liquid precipitation, which put the month of December at 117 percent of the average with another 10 days to go.

The precipitation for the year is now at 59 percent of where is should be in a normal year, and it was at 55 percent before the two recent storms, Andrus said.

"We have been in a drought for 10 years," he said. "This is just a momentary reprieve from the drought. We have been so dry for the last three and a half months."

He added that any precipitation is needed.

"We would have to have some consistent wet weather to make up for the (drought)," he said. "This storm helped us move in the right direction but not by a lot."

Andrus said the hope is the recent snowstorms is a precursor of what could be coming.

The meteorologist also said the weather temperatures during the past week have been much colder than normal for this time of year.

Normally, the daytime temperatures in December hover in the 40s, while nighttime temperatures drop to the 20s.

On Thursday morning, Andrus recorded a minus-three temperature reading, and by 8 a.m. the temperature had increased to two degrees.

"Cooler weather is very common after a snowstorm," he said. "This will persist as long as we have snow on the ground."

Andrus said the snow reflects the sunlight during the day, which is causing the temperatures to drop.

While the forecasts for Monday and Tuesday of next week call for a minimum amount of snow it will be enough to "keep our Christmas white."

The roads, while wet and slick the last few days, did not cause too many problems, police and fire officials are reporting.

Cortez Fire Chief Jeff Vandevoorde said calls have been up during the last few days, increasing from the average of four or five to 19 over a two-day period.

He said the calls are for a variety of reasons, including slip and falls and other medical concerns.

Lt. Tim Meador of the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office, said there were a few cars that slid off the road but no serious accidents.

Sgt. Matt Ozanic of the Colorado State Patrol said there were few accidents during each storm.

He said there were two accidents on Highway 491 and a number of slide offs.

"County roads are a little more icy (than the city streets)." Ozanic said. "Go slow, be careful, and everything will be fine."

michaelm@cortezjournal.com