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Utah storms help snowpack in north; south still faces severe drought

By Jed Boal | Posted - Apr 28th, 2014 @ 10:18pm


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WEBER COUNTY — Last weekend’s rainstorm gave a boost to the snowpack and farmers in northern Utah, but southern Utah is still struggling with extreme drought.

When Utah farmers suffer, we all pay for it at the grocery store. But in Weber County, the farming season is off to a good start.

The canyons east of Salt Lake County have about 75 percent snowpack, but the low elevation drainages on the Wasatch Front are only producing about 50 percent of their water.

"Every year is different. Every day is different. We just go forward and make the best of it," said sixth-generation farmer Kenny McFarland. “Thank goodness it looks like it's going to be quite a bit better than last year.”

McFarland grows sweet corn, pumpkins and tomatoes. He said last year was one of the hardest farming years he had seen in a long time because they had to make do with half their allotment of water.

McFarland said he lost sleep over his farm, and he worked closely with his neighbors to get through the drought.

“When it's our turn, and we don't need the water, we'll share with somebody who needs it, so we can help each other out,” McFarland said.

But he believes that this year will be easier, with less water rationing.

“I think will be OK the first part of the year. It's going to the latter part — July and August and September — that is going to be really difficult,” he said.

Storms in February saved the snowpack in northern Utah, delivering as much as 2 feet of water in places.

Without those, National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney said, "We'd have water supply numbers that were like 30 or 40 (percent) in northern Utah, and that would be pretty grim."

But the further south you look, the worse the conditions are.

Twelve counties in the state were declared drought disasters in January. The areas most devastated are in central and southern Utah.

"They're in such bad shape. They have water supply forecasts of 15 percent in some areas," McInerney said.

Drought conditions are the case for most of the Southwestern U.S., so farmers in the north know they are fortunate this year.

“Now what we need is a very cold, wet May,” McInerney said.

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