Utah withers under two years of dry weather pattern

Published: Tuesday, June 25 2013 4:20 p.m. MDT

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City said it's been dry since June 2011, and this weekend will sizzle.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A tired cliché aptly describes Utah weather for the past two years: It's been a long dry spell.

"We've been dry all the way back to the second week in June of 2011," said Brian McInerney, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

There was one period in December 2012 where there was above-average precipitation, he said, but the rest of the time it has been bone-dry, dry as dust — just plain moisture-challenged.

That little brush by of rain that happened Monday afternoon was just that — a little trace that McInerney said broke up an otherwise completely precipitation-deprived month recorded at Salt Lake City International Airport.

"It was a dry cold front, just enough for a trace," he said. "It just wets the can. When you pile that on a really low snowpack and not very efficient runoff, it's just dry."

June has continued a dry May, which saw a 14-day stretch of no precipitation and a parched April in which two periods went without any measurable rain or snow.

"Since those storms in May, we have just gone drier than a bone," said Randy Julander, Utah Snow Survey supervisor with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. He said there are some SNOTEL sites that have gone 45 days this year without rain. Last year, there were sites that went lacking for 85 days.

Both Julander and McInerney point out that a somewhat dry June is not really atypical.

"June is our driest month, and we are the second driest state in the nation," McInerney said. "We get on average 0.89 inches of rain, but when you get nothing, or just a trace, it is still pretty grim."

McInerney said the bigger implication than just one dry June is the soaring weekend temperatures — St. George is forecast to reach 113 degrees, and Salt Lake City will top 102 degrees Friday through Sunday — and how that excessive heat will play out with people, their health and daily water usage.

The period of protracted heat is anticipated to stay well into early next week and means the state will be drawing on its already depleted reservoir storage rather than getting any relief from the skies.

McInerney said barring any unusual shift in the weather — such as a massive wet spell that clings to the area for weeks — reservoir storage across the Utah system is predicted to be between 35 percent and 40 percent of normal at the start of the next water year on Oct. 1.

"What we need is lots of rain and thunderstorms," he said. "It does not help with the reservoir levels, but it takes the pull off the stored water because we're using the rain instead."

Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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