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Drought or no, it's going to rain this week

Published: Monday, Sept. 2 2002 11:30 a.m. MDT

Folks along the Wasatch Front are going to get wet later this week as Mother Nature scurries to make up some of the water deficit as the "water year" winds down.

That's the word from National Weather Service meteorologist Eugene Van Cor, who said an area of cold Pacific air is going to move in on Thursday or Friday and dump some water on the northwest portion of the state. As for how far it will extend across the thirsty state, though, we'll have to wait and see. But when that cold air meets up with a moist southwest flow, "it should produce a widespread thing."

Drought, like beauty, is to some extent in the eye of the beholder — and whether he's standing on parched earth or lush grass.

Van Cor said the classic definition is "way below normal" precipitation for three consecutive years. Technically, the Wasatch Front doesn't meet that definition. The Wasatch Front is only 17 percent below normal, and the storm later in the week should put a dent in that.

Deseret News graphic

DNews graphic

Drought Almanac

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Utah is, after all, second only to Nevada in driest states. Even Arizona, overall, gets more moisture. If you spread all the water out evenly over the state of Utah, the average would be 11.88 inches. Some parts, of course, routinely get considerably less. And other parts get a lot more.

Van Cor said farmers and the people who monitor reservoir levels no doubt consider this a drought. Statewide, it is the third-driest summer (June to August) since someone started keeping records in 1948.

The Wasatch Front, though, is only 2.12 inches below normal for the water year, which ends Sept. 30. Depending on what kind of precipitation comes at the end of the week, it's possible the Salt Lake area's water-year total may be near normal. If you consider the calendar year, however, it's been a dry one.

An interagency chart called the U.S. Drought Monitor says all of Utah is in a drought, ranging from moderate in the northwest sections to extreme in the southeast portions of the state. It measures it on a scale of D0 (abnormally dry) to D4 (extreme drought). And more than half the state, according to that chart, is in extreme drought, from St. George to Richfield and due north to the edge of the Wasatch Front. The Wasatch Front, on the chart, is a D2. The rest of the state hovers around a D3.

Still, Van Cor believes the cup is half-full. Or will be.

"We stand a good chance of making up some ground on the water year late this year," he said.


E-MAIL: lois@desnews.com

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