Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Snowpack may signal break in the drought

It was a long winter. A long, snowy winter.

But that’s good news for Wyoming. The AP reports that mountain snowpack in the state is above average for this time of year. The drainages that most impact the southeastern quadrant of Wyoming are the Upper North Platte drainage and the Little Snake River drainage in Carbon and Sweetwater counties. Snow-water equivalents are 115% and 130% of average, respectively. That means that reservoirs in our neck of the high prairie may be full this year, something we haven’t seen during the past five or six years of drought.

Up in Yellowstone country, record amounts of snow have fallen thus far. The summit of Jackson Hole ski mountain measures more than 600 inches. So much snow fell in Yellowstone that two of the bulldozers used by road-clearing crews have broken down. More than 100 inches of snow were measured at Yellowstone’s southern entrance in March.

All this moisture will make Grand Teton and Yellowstone even more spectacular this summer. Normally you’d think that would bring out even more tourists, but who knows, with gas prices the way they are. The big snow may also bring big spring floods, depending on how warm it gets in April and May.

In Laramie County, the long drought caused the city to begin summer watering restrictions, something many Rocky Mountain cities started long ago. Cheyenne also recycles water to use on its ballfields and parks, which has saved a lot of water as reservoirs dipped to dangerously low levels. Cheyenne also purchased a large swatch of property west of town along with its water rights.

My lawn is way too big. It came with the house, which is how that usually works. I’m gradually replacing it with rocks. This will keep down on the water usage and the mowing, which also requires energy (mine and that provided by refined Saudi oil). I’ll keep a small greensward for summer bocce ball and games of catch with the youngster and her pals. I sometimes lie out on the cool grass at night and watch the meteor showers.

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