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Monster Storm Still Not Enough To Bring State Out Of Drought

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - Any snow is welcome snow in moisture-starved Colorado, but even two feet is too little to bring us out of the drought. Almost the entire state is in some stage of drought and more than half the state is in a severe or exceptional drought.

"What we're going to see from this week is a possible incremental improvement from those really bad drought categories to not-as-bad drought categories," said Assistant State Climatologist Beck Bolinger.

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The biggest beneficiaries, she says, will be crops on the eastern plains and lawns in the Denver metro area. Denver is now 20 inches of snow above normal for this date and the city has already received four and a quarter inches of liquid.

That is well above the average. The snow could also help delay wildfires on the Front Range.

However, Bolinger says, it still may not stop cities from imposing watering restrictions, and more than a dozen are considering doing so. She says it's not only about how much snow falls, but where it falls.

"Our water municipalities are closely focused on what's happening west of the divide in terms of replenishing water supplies that we rely on," she said.

The problem, she says, is the Western Slope didn't get as much snow. Western basin averages, she says, are still 10-20% below normal.

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Even an average snowpack in the mountains may not be enough says Ben Livneh with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

"The landscape is dry. When the snow melts, the first thing it has to do, it has to recharge some of that dryness, some of that deficit before it can runoff and become part of the water supply."

A warm dry spring, Bolinger says, could also negate much of the storm's benefits.

"The next few weeks will be critical. It's kind of a wait and see game."

She says the deficits in our river basins are so deep, it will take above average snowpack to just have a normal runoff and it will take years of average to above average snowpack, she says, to emerge from the drought.

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