Summit County sees drought setback as September brings little precipitation

Rain and snow showers possible later in the week

Drought conditions have worsened in Summit County after a dry September. Dillon Reservoir is currently 85% full.
Nanako Mura/Courtesy photo

Drought conditions have, unfortunately, worsened slightly in Summit County.

Since early June, maps from the U.S. Drought Monitor have shown steady improvement in drought conditions, with the easternmost portion of the county absent of drought. However, after a dry September, the entire county is again showing a range of drought conditions.

The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought conditions on a scale of D0-D4, with D0 indicating abnormally dry conditions and D4 indicating an exceptional drought. As of Sept. 28, the southeastern half of Summit County is classified as D0, while the northwestern half ranges from D1-D3.

Map shows Colorado drought conditions as of Tuesday, Sept. 28.
U.S. Drought Monitor/Courtesy photo

“We had a nice summer,” National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Hanson said. “The monsoon came and unfortunately caused a lot of flooding in the burn areas as we know, but elsewhere, we did pretty well. … Things have turned dry in September, and that’s set us back a little bit from the drought perspective.”

According to the National Weather Service almanac, June, July and August brought above average precipitation to Summit County, which helped to ease drought conditions. July stood out with precipitation totals more than twice the area’s normal amounts.

In September, Summit County wasn’t so lucky. Only 0.61 inches of precipitation was recorded at the Dillon weather station, which is more than 50% less than the amount of precipitation normally seen in the month of September. The majority of Summit County’s precipitation came at the end of the month, with 0.22 inches recorded Sept. 30.

While the summer months brought rain, Hanson explained that Colorado’s prolonged drought conditions were too much for three months of higher precipitation levels to counteract.

“We had an extended period of drought, especially further west on the Western Slope,” Hanson said. “… While the summertime rain was good and helped us hold our own through the summer, it wasn’t excessive enough to really build up on those water supplies and get us out of the drought conditions totally.”

Soil moisture shows the effects of drought, and Summit County’s soil is on the dry side. According to a map created by the Colorado Climate Center, Summit County’s surface soil moisture is in the 3rd to 20th percentile.

Map shows Colorado’s surface soil moisture as of Sept. 21.
Colorado Climate Center/Courtesy photo

This week, the dry spell will likely continue. However, Caitlyn Mensch, National Weather Service meteorologist, reported that there is a weak storm system pushing in on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

“Especially over the higher elevations, we could see some showers, but nothing heavy is really expected for that day,” Mensch said.

Mensch added that elevations above 11,000 feet could see snow Wednesday, too.

While the week is starting off with unseasonably warm temperatures, on Thursday, Mensch said temperatures would cool into the 50s. She noted that there could be another storm system coming in Friday that would bring chances for rain, but the weekend is more promising for rain and maybe even snow.

“We’re watching another system toward the end of the weekend, which could bring a little bit more of a cooling in temperatures, but we’re still watching that for now,” Mensch said.

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