SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – April snows have improved the Colorado snowpack from 73 percent of average on April 1 to 90 percent of average on April 22. But the improvement did not extend to Southwestern Colorado, where the snowpack declined during the same period from 73 to 71 percent of average.
The numbers nonetheless represent a dramatic improvement from last year when, as of May 1, the state was at 20 percent of average and Southwestern Colorado was at just 24% of average.
Parsing it all out, the upcoming fire season is “trending toward average,” Eric Brantingham of the U.S. Forest Service told the San Miguel County Commissioners this week.
“That doesn’t mean there can’t be a large fire,” Brantingham cautioned. Large fires can occur in average years and in years that are below average
Fire season in southern Colorado usually begins the second half of May, Brantingham said.
The weather and climate data that Brantingham presented paints what has become a typically confounding picture of regional conditions. While snowpack is up over last year, the amount of water in state reservoirs is down. The Climate Prediction Center at NOAA is forecasting above average temperatures for the summer and persistent drought conditions.
As of April 16, the U.S. Drought Monitor characterizes all of Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties in either moderate or severe drought, with the outlook for the drought to persist or worsen.