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Environment

Pocket of severe drought lingers over Southwest U.S., including Colorado

In all, nearly 70% of Colorado is abnormally dry or in moderate or severe drought,

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Drought has yet to give up its hold over parts of the southwestern United States despite a series of storms that have brought rain and snow to the region in recent weeks.

The latest federal map shows a pocket of moderate and severe drought centered over the Four Corners region — where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet.

A large part of Colorado’s western slope, including much of the southwestern part of the state, were listed Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being in severe or moderate drought.

In fact, only the northeast section of the state, including the Denver metro area and the northern mountains around Steamboat Springs, are not under some kind of drought listing.

In all, nearly 70% of Colorado is abnormally dry or in moderate or severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. A year ago, roughly 85% of the state had some kind of drought status, including 11% that was listed as being in exceptional drought.

In May, Colorado hit its lowest drought level in at least 19 years after an exceptionally snowy winter and wet spring.

Despite the continued dry conditions in the Southwest, forecasters say things are better than they were last year at this time when exceptional and extreme drought — the worst categories — had set in. Over the last three months, parts of southern Arizona and New Mexico recovered but portions of Utah and Colorado dried out.

Colorado’s snowpack, as of Friday, was at 117% of its normal level and above where it was at the same time last year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Overall, officials say average moisture levels resulting from snowfall are above normal across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah despite precipitation deficits that have accumulated over the last six months.

Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul contributed to this report.


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