Rain, Snow Help Wyoming Emerge From Drought

October 25, 2013

Most of Wyoming has emerged from drought thanks to heavy rain in September and substantial snow over the past few weeks.

Only 39 percent of Wyoming is experiencing drought right now, down from 98 percent of the state a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Drought Monitor.

Meanwhile, the parts of Wyoming still in drought aren’t as dry as they were a year ago.

Currently 36 percent of Wyoming is in stage one, or moderate, drought. Three percent of Wyoming is in a state of severe drought.

No place in Wyoming is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought right now, compared to more than half of the state a year ago.

Nearly 7 inches of rain in September, followed by record snows Oct. 4 and 17, already have pushed Cheyenne about an inch over its 16-inch average annual precipitation, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

The recent heavy rain and snow could be a big help over the winter if the state gets at least average snowfall, said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

In that case, melting snow would be more likely to run off into streams and reservoirs rather than be soaked up by the ground.

“That was part of our problem this past year,” Fuchs said. “We had normal snowfall, but when that snow started melting, a lot of it went over dry soils and was sucked up before it could get to any reservoirs.”

Almost two-thirds of ranges and pastures in Wyoming are in fair to excellent condition, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Sixty-one percent of the state’s grazing lands were in very poor shape a year ago.

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