OGDEN — If you enjoy cold, wet weather, go outside right now and soak it up because, after today, that’s it for April.
March already was more spring than winter, and what all this means is that the spring runoff has already begun in most places, will be over before you know it and won’t add much water anywhere.
All this is a massive change from a year ago, when the entire Wasatch Front spent March filling sandbags, cleaning streambeds and calculating how high the water could go if the stream nearby overflowed its banks.
This year, don’t sweat it. Seriously.
“The runoff is going to be really bad,” said Brian McInerney, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
“It’s because we haven’t had storms, but what really put on the kibosh is, March is a swing month. It’s very wet typically, and when it does have a lot of storms, that’s what you expect, but this was tragic,” he said.
Not only were there almost no storms in March, but there was a lot of wind and sun, what McInerney calls “solar radiation.” Those two things combined to make the snowpack disappear in no time by evaporating the snow and blowing it away without producing a drop of meltwater.
Utah broke 56 warm-weather records in March, and it’s not alone. There were 15,000 records broken nationwide in March, with the average temperature 8.6 degrees above normal.
Utah precipitation in March was 70 degrees of average, McInerney said, but combined with an average monthly temperature that was 4 degrees above normal, plus being windy, and most of the rain and snow that did fall dried up and blew away.
As a result, the runoff for the Weber River drainage will be only 50 percent of average. McInerney expects the runoff to be done in many places by the middle of May, a stark contrast to last year when runoff flooding extended well into June.
The one saving factor for this year’s water supply is that the reservoirs all over Utah are full, or nearly so. Willard Bay is at 92 percent, Pineview Reservoir is 91 percent, Causey Dam is at 84 percent and Echo is at 90 percent. Lost Creek and East Canyon reservoirs are 98 and 99 percent full, respectively.
The lowest reservoir in the state is Lake Powell, at 64 percent full. Flaming Gorge is 86 percent.
Managers of water districts are turning on secondary and irrigation water this weekend. Because the reservoirs, which hold a two-year supply, are so full, no restrictions on water use have been announced yet.
Meanwhile, McInerney said, the weather after Monday will be lovely, warm and dry for the foreseeable