Weather - Drought News Update Recap

Colorado returns to drought-free conditions, a few abnormally dry areas remain

Drought news and updates for Colorado.
Chris Sorensen

While two small abnormally dry pockets remain, for the first time since mid-2019, Colorado is largely drought-free. Heavy winter snows for western Colorado and the mountains, and abundant May and June rains for the eastern plains, have led to substantial improvements across the state.

In last week’s update from the National Drought Mitigation Center, a small portion of southeast Baca County remained in moderate drought. With continuing thunderstorms over the past week, that area has now moved to abnormally dry conditions, along with another similar pocket impacting Phillips, Sedgwick, and Yuma counties in northeast Colorado.

For eight weeks in May, June, and July 2019, Colorado was fully free from all levels of drought – including abnormally dry conditions. In total, 14 consecutive weeks that year were either drought-free or had conditions which were below moderate drought, the least severe category.

Less than one year later, more than 11 percent of the state had returned to extreme drought,  while 62 percent of the state overall was in moderate drought or worse, and another 14 percent abnormally dry.

By mid-October 2020, all of Colorado was in at least moderate drought, and nearly 17 percent in exceptional conditions – the worst category. One hundred percent drought would continue until mid-February 2021, and exceptional drought would remain until the start of November before pausing until March 2022.

Colorado wouldn’t see more than half the state’s area in drought-free conditions until the end of March this year. Heavy snow began to settle in for the mountains and west slope in January, virtually instantly bring 40 percent of state to drought-free status. Until the end of May, Baca County retained a small area of exceptional conditions.

With ongoing spring thunderstorms bringing heavy rains and widespread flooding to the eastern plains, Colorado may be fully drought-free – including abnormally dry areas – for the report in the last week of June.

Storms Wednesday afternoon continued into the early morning hours Thursday. Additional storms are expected Thursday afternoon and Friday before drier conditions settle in through at least the middle of the coming week.

A flood watch is in effect for much of northeast and east central Colorado until at least Thursday evening.