Despite recent storms, Utah’s drought is very far from being over

Mar 9, 2022, 6:51 PM | Updated: 9:30 pm
Image of snow covered mountains surrounded by fog...
Utah's Oquirrh Mountains covered in snow and surrounded by fog. Photo credit: Paul Nelson/KSL NewsRadio

SALT LAKE CITY — Don’t be fooled by the recent storms.  Weather watchers say the storms did not make a significant dent in Utah’s drought, and in some ways, our drought problem is worse than a year ago.

Officials at ski resorts say they are grateful for the latest storms that dropped over a foot of fresh powder on their slopes.  However, Snowbird Resort Spokesperson Sarah Sherman says they’re still a bit behind what they should normally have.  She says they would have 400 total inches of snow by now in a normal year, but they’re sitting at around 300 inches in 2022. 

Still, she says conditions are great on the mountains. And it’s possible they can still get a lot of fresh powder if we have another “Miracle March.”

“It doesn’t always happen,” Sherman said.  “Weather changes every single year, but it really isn’t uncommon for us to see snowfall, and sometimes a lot of snowfall into March.”

Utah’s drought

On a statewide level, the snow-water equivalent is only 84 percent of what we would consider “normal,” according to the National Weather Service of Utah.  There are only 26 days left until the usual peak of the snow season. And Meteorologist Alex DeSmet says we only had 68 percent of that average peak total.

DeSmet said, “We were able to get close to a normal winter, in terms of snow-water, but it wasn’t enough to erase deficits.”

There are some things working in the state’s favor, though.  For instance, DeSmet says the soil moisture levels are much higher than they were last year, which would allow more water to reach the reservoirs and not get absorbed by dry dirt.

“If you consider the ground like a sponge, last year the sponge was very dry.  This year, the sponge has some water in it, but it’s certainly not saturated,” he said.

At the same time, some things are worse than 12 months ago.  DeSmet says the state’s reservoirs don’t have as much water stored away as they did by this time in 2021. 

He said, “We’re at 61 percent, this year, for reservoir storage.  Last year, we were at 72 percent.”

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Despite recent storms, Utah’s drought is very far from being over