Rainstorm brings hope for a wet winter, hydrologists say

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PARK CITY — Utah finally received much-needed rain and some snow across the state to diminish the drought. Weather watchers hope to say farewell to drought conditions that exist around much of the state.

Brighton received some of the snowfall on Tuesday as the first snow of the season fell on the slopes. Over the ridge, at the Park City Mountain Resort, snow hung on the branches at mid-mountain.

At Snowbird, they were shoveling three inches at Hidden Peak. Ski Utah also says that they received five inches of snow.

"This rain is phenomenally important, especially to northern Utah," said Randy Julander.

Hydrologist Randy Julander says that those who received rain and snow should consider themselves lucky. Many neighborhoods in northern Utah received up to a quarter-inch of precipitation. For some, it was the first measurable rainfall in weeks.

"From about April through the beginning of August and into mid-August, the rain just shut off. Some areas went 60, 70, 80 days without measurable precipitation," Julander said.

But even after the rain, the soil is bone dry.

From about April through the beginning of August and into mid-August, the rain just shut off. Some areas went 60, 70, 80 days without measurable precipitation.

–Randy Julander, hydrologist

The soil up in the mountains is slightly more saturated, but not much. If the soil is still overly dry in the springtime, all of the runoff snow water soaks into the ground, instead of running off and filling the reservoirs.

"Last year this time, reservoir storage was 91 percent of capacity," Julander said.

This year, some small reservoirs are around 10 percent of capacity, while larger ones are near 70 percent. Julander says statewide we will head into winter between 55 and 60 percent of capacity. With an average snow fall this coming winter, reservoir levels should rebound.

"With a winter like this one, we're going to see some real problems next year," Julander said.

Southern Utah has been handling the drought better when they began to receive more late summer rain showers.

"A lot of sites got between five and 10 inches of precipitation during that period of time, up to 400 percent of average, which brought the water year total back to average conditions," Julander said.

Hydrologists are happy to leave this water year behind.

"It's gone, thank goodness," he said. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Don't come back."


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Jed Boal


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