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Drought experts reflect on impact of Colorado's recent snowstorms

Experts say Colorado's recent snow storms nearly not enough to cover excessive drought
Experts say Colorado's recent snow storms nearly not enough to cover excessive drought 03:06

Colorado's recent series of snow storms have been helpful for combating Colorado's drought but still isn't nearly enough to help the state elevate out of its current drought-level status.

Climatologists say the state would need two or three more equivalent snow storms soon in order to slightly move the state up to the next level of drought.  


"Although it is good to see a few inches on the ground, I don't expect this storm to move the needle much," said Peter Goble, Climatologist at the Colorado Climate Center for Colorado State University.  

2023's moisture has been more kind to Colorado than in previous years, especially after the historic wildfire season in 2020.  

"We are only an inch and a half behind on precipitation which matters, but is not as much as it could be," Goble said.  

Larimer County is home to the largest burn scar in Colorado history. The Cameron Peak Fire charred more than 208,000 acres in 2020, burning into early winter. Among the many agencies that helped combat the fire was the Poudre Fire Authority which most commonly serves the Fort Collins community.  


"Any increase or change in moisture is always welcomed, especially in northern Colorado," said Annie Bierbower, spokesperson for PFA.  

Bierbower said the snow that fell on Thursday helps temporarily address concerns with one to 10-hour fuels. Those fuels include things like dry grass or small twigs which can easily ignite and fuel fires.  

However, the amount of snow that fell is unlikely to impact the 100 or 1,000-hour fuels like tree branches and tree trunks.  

"Even though we just had a snowfall and currently have moisture on the ground, that is still pretty borderline for the moisture we want to see in that size of fuel," Bierbower said. "We really are hoping for a little more moisture, especially in this area."  

Homeowners are encouraged to remove dead leaves or other twigs and smaller fuels that can easily carry flames.  

Goble said the Colorado front range is in relatively decent shape, even though still in drought. Denver's reservoirs are doing fairly well with supply meaning water restrictions shouldn't be expected through the winter.  


Goble said it was important that Coloradans pay attention to the snowpack that is to come in the mountains, as that water flow is of greater importance.  

"While it was a hotter than normal summer for the state, it was nowhere near some of the last few summers we have seen in terms of fire activity in Colorado. And, a big reason for that is because we had regular moisture in the form of thunderstorms in our high country, and that kept the vegetation and soils wet enough," Goble said.  

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