SALT LAKE CITY — The state needs every drop of rain to start making a dent in the drought. After five years of below-average runoff, Utah still needs a lot more rainfall before winter.
The storm that swept through Utah earlier this week dropped snow on the peaks and rain in the valleys, but it did little to get the state out of the drought.
"You look at the higher elevations and you see we've got snow up there. You think this is great, this is what we want to see," said National Weather Service hydrologist Brian McInerney.
Rainfall from the recent storm ranged from 2 inches in Cache County to ½ inch in Salt Lake County, and not much moisture south of that.
What Utah really needs is a several-day soaker, the hydrologist said. "We have incredibly dry soil, and that bodes poorly for our runoff."
The water year started Oct. 1. The best scenario for a big runoff into Utah's reservoirs in the spring starts with a lot of rain — now.
"As much (rain) as you can get to saturate the soil as much as possible," McInerney said.
After that, Utah needs a lot of snow this winter. If the soil is saturated, snowmelt in the spring drains into reservoirs rather than soaking into the soil. He said Utah needs heavy rains every two to three days this fall.
But our region hasn't seen that in five years.
"We're coming into year six. Hopefully we'll have a good runoff this year,” McInerney said. “But we've had poor runoff each of the last five years, and it all started off with poor soil moisture in the fall months."
Long-range forecasting this year isn't so reliable for Utah weather with a weak La Niña system, McInerney said. But after five years with poor runoff and dry weather, Utah could be in for a shift. Our state has experienced seven straight years of below normal runoff in the past, McInerney said. Longer stretches are rare.