Manti Mountain, that vast, 80-mile-long uplift of earth that rises to elevations of 10,000 feet above several central Utah valleys, continues to be a barrier to travelers.

But it's also a barrier to the storm clouds that must drop much of their burden of water before they can pass across its highest crests.And in its role as a sky-high reef, the mountain makes possible life in the valley towns below.

That role is illustrated in the precipitation figures that Gary Jorgenson, who gathers weather data for the U.S. Forest Service, recorded for July.

At Sorenson's Field, a mile southeast of Ephraim, at the 5,600-foot elevation, Jorgenson measured .22 inch of water for July. The July average is .73 inch.

Higher on the mountain, at the headquarters course, at elevation 8,500, he measured .90 inch. Average is 1.35 inches.

And ever higher, at the Meadows course, almost two miles above sea level, he measured 1.00 inch. Average there for July is 1.74 inches.

The differences in precipitation point out both the extent of the drought and the importance of the mountain to life in the valleys, Jorgenson said.

"The springs at the lower elevations are now drying up," he said, "but the mountain storms are keeping those higher up still alive."

Cooperative weather observer Lee J. Anderson found the same situation true during July in Manti.

July produced only .28 inches of moisture, he said. Average for the month, the driest month of the year in statistics going back to 1908, is .72 inch.

The month's precipitation came mainly in a rainstorm the morning of July 4 that delivered .17 inches of water. But even at that, July wasn't the driest month of the 1988 water year.

June was drier, with .23 inch, Anderson said, and February, the month that's counted on to build up the snow pack, even drier, with only .19 inch.