DENVER - Snow across the Denver metro area on Thursday may have created a hassle for some commuters, but it was a welcome relief for those who rely on that moisture for their livelihood.
Large portions of the state are experiencing abnormally dry to even severe drought conditions, which could be a big problem for farmers and ranchers in the Eastern Plains.
While parts of Colorado are experiencing a deficit when it comes to snowfall, it remains a big question whether or not that will translate into a major drought this year.
"We haven't had a lot of big storms, so, they've been a little dry, especially along the far eastern areas," said Frank Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder.
Cooper said the state has been stuck in a pattern, which favors snowfall in the mountains, but not as much in the lower elevations.
In its latest report released on Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor showed a large portion of the state experiencing abnormally dry conditions. In the east and southeast counties of Colorado, the conditions were much drier: from moderate drought to exceptional drought.
"Mother nature can be a rough business companion," said Nick Colglazier, public policy director for the Colorado Farm Bureau.
He said if the snowfall and eventual rainfall don't pick up by the spring, farmers and ranchers could face big problems.
"We're seeing the continuing effects of a drought that has been in the Eastern Plains, especially southeastern Colorado for three years now," Colglazier said. "We're actually seeing some of those native grasses that have gone extremely dormant and there are even reports that a lot of those native grasses have actually died. So, we need some good conditions that bring some of those grasses out of dormancy and to actually have some of those seeds sprout so that we can start repopulating those native prairies."
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service, though, said it is still too early to say whether drought conditions would persist or worsen.
"March is generally one of our snowier, wetter months and April is when we get the heavy spring storms from the Plains," Cooper said. "No reason to panic. We still got a lot of time going into spring, so hopefully we'll see that pattern switch around for us."
As for the phenomenon known as El Nino and La Nina, the NWS said they are neutral for now, but hedging towards La Nina. That could potentially mean drier conditions for Colorado.
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