Pagosa Country experiences driest April in 127 years

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    By Clayton Chaney
    Staff Writer

    This year, Archuleta County experienced its driest April in 127 years, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

    The NIDIS also indicates that the driest year-to-date for January through April in the past 127 years occurred this year.

    According to the NIDIS website, as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19 100 percent of the county is abnormally dry and is in a moderate drought stage.

    The website also indicates that 99.36 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage and 50.06 percent of the county is in an extreme drought stage.

    Additionally, 6.4 percent of the county is in an exceptional drought stage.

    The NIDIS website indicates that the western portion of the county is in an extreme and exceptional drought stage, while the eastern portion is in a severe drought stage.

    According to the NIDIS, under the severe drought stage, the fire season is extended and the snowpack is low, along with a reduced river flow.

    The NIDIS also notes that under the extreme drought stage, pasture conditions worsen and large fires can develop.

    Under the exceptional drought stage, dust storms and topsoil removal is widespread, and agricultural and recreational losses are large.

    As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, the National Weather Service had issued a Fire Weather Watch for today, May 20.

    The National Weather Service also forecasts a 60 percent chance of rain on Friday and a 40 percent chance of rain on Saturday.

    River report

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 775 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19. 

    Based on 85 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 1,390 cfs. 

    The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1948 at 3,860 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 170 cfs, recorded in 1977.

    As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 19, the Piedra River near Arboles was flowing at a rate of 536 cfs.

    Based on 58 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 601 cfs.

    The highest recorded rate was 4,000 cfs in 1973. The lowest recorded rate was 110 cfs in 2002.

    Snow report

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 16.3 inches of snow water equivalent as of 1 p.m. on May 12.

    That amount is 54 percent of the May 19 median for this site.

    The average snow water equivalent for this date at the Wolf Creek summit is 30.4 inches.