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Colorado Is Still Working Its Way Out Of The Drought

DENVER (CBS4)- Whether you love snow or not, Coloradans who've spent summers breathing wildfire air are still relieved to see moisture on the ground. Shoveling snow is better than watery eyes and coughs in June, but even with the last two storms, climatologists say the state is still very dry.

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Despite white landscapes around the state this week, the drought map is covered in orange and red.

Becky Bolinger, Assistant State Climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, says seeing some color on the drought map is normal. That's just a part of Colorado's dry climate. The drought situation varies around the state, but we are overall much drier than we should be.

Even after recent snowstorms.

"We've had some continuous shots of snow and that has really helped the drought situation, even though it doesn't look like it when you look at the map," said Bolinger. "It's not as high of a risk as it was in December, but there are other things at play."

Last year, 2021, was an unseasonably warm and dry fall for much of Colorado and snowpack relies heavily on October and November snowfall.

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"We did have a severe enough drought that what we've been seeing is not going to absolve it completely overnight. We definitely have to have more consistent shots to completely get rid of what we experienced in the fall," said Bolinger. "How long we were in those dry and warm conditions puts a lot of stress on the vegetation and deeper down into the soils."

When the snowpack is lower than it should be, and the state is in drought conditions, risk increases for large and devastating wildfires. Bolinger says she's comfortable with the levels -- for now.

"They're still above average, although they have come down a bit because they haven't had as much activity in the mountains over the last couple of weeks. Those are the numbers that we really watch for in terms of what is our water supply going to be in the spring," said Bolinger. "What's happening in Denver is a good thing to see, but it's not going to have as big of an impact on our water supply."

Bolinger says snowpack will be something to keep an eye on in February and through March. The more snowpack we have, and the longer it sticks around, the lower the risk for large wildfires in the summer.

"My concern when looking at the snowpack now is can we keep it near average and peak near average? And then keep that snowpack for as long as we can," said Bolinger.

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She's not worried yet -- Colorado's snowiest months are still ahead of us.

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