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Drought stricken plains see snow as blessing

By Joe Dominguez, Multimedia Journalist - Pueblo Chieftain Bureau , j.dominguez@krdo.com
Published On: Feb 04 2014 10:34:47 PM CST

We talk with the Pueblo Board of Water Works about why it's so important for both the mountains and the plains to see moisture.

FOWLER, Colo. -

A storm packing enough snow and cold temperatures to keep many people inside is seen as a blessing for farmers and ranchers east of Pueblo.

One farmer near Fowler said he was hoping to see up to 10 inches of snow with this storm but will be grateful for the couple of inches that fell across his land.

"I'm kind of disappointed a little but we're happy we get whatever moisture God sends us," said Kurt Tate, who's been growing alfalfa and other crops for the last dozen years.

Drought conditions over the last several years have forced farmers like Tate to give up on half of their available land because of water concerns.

"It is still bone dry out here," said Tate. "The pastures are dry. The crops are dry. The water is in short supply."

The land is so dry that sometimes dust storms blow in that Tate and others compare do the Dust Bowl days they read about in history books.

"The dust storms were horrible this fall," said Tate. "You just see the dust coming from the west and its just a brown sky. When it hits you can't see and its pretty depressing."

The U.S. Drought Monitor considers southeastern Colorado one of the worst of the driest areas in the state.

Winter snowfall can help farms and ranches in other ways. The mountains hold snow until the spring and the melt off can be used across the plains on irrigated farms.

Paul Fanning, of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, said with this latest storm snowpack levels are where they should be. Water department leaders said they are cautiously optimisitic that this will lead to strong water levels later this year. Still, farmers can benefit greatly from direct precipitation now.

"They still need that moisture in the soil to really to keep the soil healthy," said Fanning.

Tate agrees and said he'd like to see as much snow as possible until March when he starts irrigating hay.

"Any moisture between now and then would be a blessing," said Tate.

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