Massive rainfall alleviates drought

Lisa Collacott special to Tribune
Posted

For the past few years the state has been in a drought and the last two summers it has experienced devastating wild land fires and record breaking temperatures.

But that drought came to an end in a matter of days for parts of Colorado as rain pummeled the Front Range causing devastating flash flooding in 17 counties. Nearly a week of rain brought more than 18 inches of rain to Boulder according to the National Weather Service, more than six inches of rain in parts of Denver and parts of El Paso County saw more than 11 inches of rain. An inch of rain is equivalent to approximately 10 inches of snow.

“There are no drought conditions in areas of northwest El Paso County,” Tom Magnuson, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pueblo, said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor was released on Sept. 19 and states that the rainfall in Colorado was a combination of Gulf and Pacific tropical moisture, stalled frontal systems and up sloping conditions. In many areas three inches of rain is approximately 20 percent of normal rainfall totals.

Many parts of the state are still showing as having moderate drought conditions and abnormally dry conditions.

“There is still a drought in southeast Colorado,” Magnuson added.

A small area in southeastern Colorado shows that there is still extreme and exceptional drought conditions.

Magnuson said there has been improvement in many areas because of the rainfall. Last week 1.97 percent of the state was considered not to be in a drought but now 15.79 percent of the state is no longer in a drought.

While the rain caused severe flooding in communities along the Big Thompson, St. Vrain, South Platte and Cache la Poudre rivers and flooding in Manitou Springs and southwest Colorado Springs, it didn't do much to help Palmer Lake which has been completely dry for the past two summers.

“The reservoirs look good but Palmer Lake just has a few puddles in it,” Dr. Michael Maddox, water trustee for the town of Palmer Lake, said.

Maddox said it would take a couple of winters of some really good snowfall to fill the lake but an engineer also needs to be hired to determine why the lake is losing water.

He did add that the recent rainfall has helped the town's water supply.

“Water usage has dropped significantly so we're doing good,” Maddox said.

Randy Gillette, assistant district manager for Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, said the district has also noticed customers not using as much water.

The recent rainfall however has not prompted water restrictions to lift in the Tri-Lakes area. Woodmoor Water and Sanitation will lift their summer water restrictions on Sept. 30. Donala Water and Sanitation is expected to lift its water restrictions Oct. 1. Donala must follow Colorado Springs Utilities watering restrictions because Donala is contracted with CSU to deliver renewable water to the district.