This time of year, most people on Wright’s Mesa are expecting the rains to fall. July usually marks the start of monsoon season, during which storms happen —sometimes daily — in the afternoons.
With the area in a D-4 “exceptional” drought category — the highest and most severe drought rating that exists — the rainy season can’t come soon enough for most people.
The Town of Norwood has restricted water usage for citizens, and Public Works Director Tim Lippert has said the reservoir has just four-to-five months of water in it. The state is making calls (temporary revocations) on water rights. Farmers and ranchers are worried about hay and livestock. Homeowners are watching their garden plots wither away, and wildfires are burning thousands of acres throughout the surrounding region.
The norm for precipitation on Wright’s Mesa is 6.20 inches this time of year (January-June). This year, precipitation levels are at 3.48 inches. Many people are comparing this year to the 2002 drought year, but Stearns said 2002 was worse. In 2002, just 2.14 inches were accounted for during the same time period.
Meteorologist Scott Stearns, from the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said many people are asking the question, “When is the rain coming?” Stearns, though, said weather experts don’t really have an answer right now.
For the next week, there is no real sign of precipitation on the horizon. After that, he said it’s a “crapshoot.”
“People forget monsoon is not something we can pinpoint to a day,” he said. “It’s a gradual ramp-up of moisture that eventually falls to the ground.”
What makes the rainy season happen? Stearns said it’s a change in the weather pattern that occurs in the western U.S., one that allows for moisture to be transported from Baja and the southwest coastal areas of the country to the local area. He said he describes it as a large-scale shift in the weather.
Stearns said for now, there are no real signs of monsoon season. He said there is more moisture presently in the air than there has been in the last several weeks. Still, experts cannot really predict when the seasonal rains will start.
July, he agreed, is when Norwood typically sees the monsoons arrive, sometime after the Fourth of July holiday.
Some people in Norwood may be wondering if it will rain at all this summer. Is there a chance the monsoons won’t come this year? Stearns said he cannot answer that question, as the subject of monsoons cannot be covered in a “black or white” conversation.
“There is no way to answer that definitely,” he said.
According to him, some years in the past did see much lighter rains than other years.
Meanwhile, many areas surrounding Norwood are in the same predicament. West Montrose, Dolores, La Plata and Montezuma counties are also in the D-4 category. So is most of San Juan County. Stearns said southeast Utah, central and northeast Arizona, and northern New Mexico are experiencing exceptional drought as well.