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Snow dissipates

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Via the U.S. Drought Monitor
Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

Drought threat diminished despite lack of snow

Snow totals dropped to zero in areas closest to Newcastle, according to the April 1 Black Hills Snow Course Readings report completed by the Department of Agriculture in Sundance. Despite the lack of snow, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought severity has dropped recently, but conditions on the ground may not warrant optimism on that front.

Recent snowstorms have also left Weston County with a minimal amount of moisture, according to Weston County fire warden Daniel Tysdal.

“While we have gotten a bit of moisture, it certainly has not been the hugely beneficial storm we had hoped for with several inches or even more of wet moisture-laden snow, at least locally,” Tysdal said in an email dated April 8.

“So, in regards to drought status, I doubt it has done much at all on that front, as far as fire, every bit of moisture we get can help us get a Spring green-up and hopefully decrease fire danger, if even only for a short time, so still grateful for anything!” he said.

According to the snow course reading, both Little Bear Run and Mallo have no snow and therefore no snow water equivalent.

Snow water equivalent, or SWE, is a common snowpack measurement for the amount of water contained in the snowpack, and the lack of any snowpack at those monitoring stations on April is unusual, and marks a significant difference from the situation a year ago.

The 30-year median SWE for Little Bear Run is 2.5 inches, and last year’s SWE was 5.2 inches. For Mallo, the 30-year median SWE is 5.9, and last year’s SWE was 9.5 inches.

Other areas of the Black Hills with no snow include Blind Park and Mount Torn. The highest snow totals included in the report was North Rapid Creek with 13 inches of snow depth and 4.9 inches of SWE.

Despite the lack of snowpack, the U.S. Drought Monitor is indicating that drought severity has decreased in the county, with 99.43% of the county listed as being in at least D0 drought on April 9, down from 100% on April 2.

Of that 99.43%, 52.7% is listed as being in D1 drought, down from 63.10% on April 2.

D0 drought means the area is unseasonably dry, while D1 drought, or moderate drought, means the area has low hay and forage yield, elevated fire danger and fewer wildflower blooms.

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