From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A Christmas Eve snowstorm blanketed the Arkansas River headwaters in white, but did not alleviate drought conditions that have clung to the basin for more than two years. “We went to an early Mass at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and before we got out it had snowed so much that we almost didn’t make it home,” said Rego Omerigic, a Leadville resident…
But more precise measurements by Leadville weather watcher Charles Kuster show that snowfall for the season — July 1-June 30 in the high country — is only about 60 percent of average so far. It’s also been one of the warmest years on record. “On Christmas Eve, we got 4.8 inches of snow, with 0.34 of an inch moisture content. That’s the largest amount this season,” Kuster said.
So far in December — more snow is in the forecast through Friday — Leadville has gotten about 16 inches of snow, compared with the average of about 21 inches. Statewide, snowpack levels as measured at Snotel sites maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service were at 68 percent of average just prior to the storm. The Arkansas River basin was in the worst shape at 57 percent.
Pueblo’s precipitation for the year, not likely to increase by the end of the year Monday, is 4.94 inches, the second-driest year on record. The driest year was 2002, with 3.94 inches, and average is 12.54 inches. If the drought continues, it could influence how water is used in the Arkansas River basin. Winter water storage is at about 83 percent of average. The Pueblo Board of Water Works is planning to recoup water in storage and eliminating spot-market leases next year. Aurora Water is planning to lease water from the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to refill some of its depleted storage.