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Snow Good News for Drought-Stricken Utah

Snow Good News for Drought-Stricken Utah

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Jed Boal ReportingWe asked for it and we got it, a winter with plenty of snow. It’s good news for a drought-stricken state, but a bit much for people with sights set on spring.

The storm saturated most of the state with plenty of wet snow. It's back-breaking work to shovel it off the driveway, but at least it's making a difference in the drought. Last year at this time snowpack was 50 percent of normal and fading fast. This is normal; it's what we need and even more.

The four-day blast delivered from one to four inches of water across the state with more than 40 inches of snow at high elevations. As the snow melts water soaks into the soil, so 100-percent snowpack becomes 70-percent run-off into reservoirs unless there's a cool, wet spring.

It's great news and may be enough to fill small reservoirs, but…

Brian McInerney, National Weather Service Hydrologist: “We're still going to have a deficit with groundwater. We're still going to have a deficit with large reservoirs. And some people are still going to have a bad time even though we had a normal run-off this year."

Steven Seastrand, Draper Resident: “It gets real windy, there's a lot of snow blowing around, but it can also be quite beautiful. I'm sure we'll have a delightful spring when it arrives."

Steven’s neighborhood up on Traverse Ridge didn't exist the last time we had a normal winter. Many homeowners are spending their first or second winter there and it's quite an adventure. Yards have six to eight feet of snow in piles and drifts.

Steven Seastrand, Draper Resident: “I'm sure we'll have a delightful spring when it arrives."

Here's another yardstick of the snowy winter. Snowplows, public and private, are pushing a lot of snow. The state spends one to two million dollars on a storm like this one to keep the roads clear.

UDOT budgeted 14 million dollars for snow removal this year and busted its budget by more than one million before the weekend storm. UDOT will dip into emergency funds and other maintenance money to keep the plows working.

The budget is based on the last five years and they could go over by four million dollars.

Nile Easton, UDOT: “The last five years were below average years. So we're having to go back to 1993 to project out how much we'll end up needing."

Many private plow companies are enjoying a 300-350 percent increase in business from last year. They went out five or six times last year this winter has had 20-25 snows worth plowing.

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