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A pattern of storms running all the way into March, like the morning blizzard pictured here that hit the county on Friday, is contributing to help prevent a repeat of last year’s severe drought conditions.

An abundance of snow

 

‘Good news’: Area snowpack at 127 percent of normal

 

By Robert Green

 

03-14-2019

 

A pattern of storms coming from the south this winter, starting around Thanksgiving and reaching a crescendo in February, has dumped an abundance of snow in the mountains above Sanpete County.

Snowpack in the San Pitch River Basin is 127 percent of normal, compared to 54 percent last year, and offers hope that severe drought conditions might be eased and the nearly empty Gunnison Reservoir might be replenished, said Troy Brosten, hydrologist for the U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

Furthermore, February precipitation was a fantastic 159 percent of normal in the San Pitch Basin. Soil moisture is higher at 68 percent this year, compared to 52 percent last year. And streamflow volumes are forecast at 120-123 percent of average.

“If the storm pattern continues through March, we’ll be in great shape for a great runoff,” Brosten said. “It’s so much more enjoyable to deliver good news!”

Conditions throughout the state are much improved over last year; cool weather and storms are forecasted for the first two weeks of March, he said. Last year at this time, melt-off was beginning in many areas.

The snowpack is also saturated with water as February storms were heavy and wet, he said.

It’s a little too early to tell if the runoff is going to fill all the reservoirs, Brosten said. “But we are in a pretty good pattern with storms coming from the south; and patterns tend to continue.”

David Cox, board member of the Manti Creek Water Users Association, agreed the water situation is better than last year. The snowpack at the Snotel site on Thistle Flat is “looking very good,” he said. “We have twice as much snowpack at this time as last year. I don’t want to make any promises, but conditions are good.”

Snowpack throughout the state has also been excellent, coming in at 124 percent of normal, compared to 58 percent last year.

In neighboring districts, precipitation on the Lower Sevier Basin is 158 percent of normal and the Upper Sevier Basin is 132 percent of normal.

Precipitation in the valleys and agricultural regions of South Central Utah have also been outstanding, according to NRCA reports. There has been an average of 1.7 inches of precipitation at soil analysis sites in the basin, bringing the seasonal accumulation (Oct.-Feb.) to 7.5 inches. Soil moisture is at 41 percent compared to 27 percent last year.

Last year, Sanpete County was facing extreme drought conditions, along with some other counties in Southern Utah. In Sanpete, springs and aquifers were drying up. Gunnison and Nine-Mile reservoirs were mostly dry; and many cities and towns in Sanpete County imposed water restrictions on residents last summer.

Farmers in the region lost their irrigation water early, said Garrick Hall, Utah Farm Bureau Central Regional Manager.

Gunnison Valley farmer Stan Jensen said drought conditions last year reduced his crop production by 40 percent. He stopped watering in mid-June. “If we don’t get a lot of snow this this winter, we’ll really be in a dire situation,” he said last December. “Because the reservoirs are starting on empty.”

Consequently, the Jensen family, has been praying for heavy snowfall this winter; and so far, the mountains are filled with snow.

According to the NRCS, “If our snowpack continues to accumulate through March, then we stand a very good chance to fill most small to medium-size reservoirs and improve our storage levels at many of the larger reservoirs.”