Craig's summer was a dry one


In Craig this summer, rainfall was about 20 percent below average.

Janet Camilletti figures that might have kept people's lawns green, but it hasn't helped her family at their ranch north of Craig.

"We didn't get the rains the town got. We're suffering pretty bad," Camilletti said.

As of the end of July, Craig had received 7.43 inches of rain, said Jerry Smith, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. The historical average for that time of year is 9.01 inches.

"It's better than it has been, but it's still below normal," Smith said.

The rain that did fall came at good times for the hay, Camilletti said. But her pastures are dry, and her creeks and ponds are the same. Because the creeks went down so early, the family ran out of irrigation water in mid-June.

To combat the drought, all the Camillettis could do was rent more pasture and haul more water.

They started haying June 1. They usually don't start until July 1.

Things were better south of Craig. Hamilton received 9.75 inches of rain by the end of July, Smith said. That's .12 inches higher than the historical average.

"Since late summer, it feels a bit drier, but it's far better than the last few years," said Loren Forbes, who ranches near Hamilton.

He said his pastures are much better, and his hay has done better, too. He didn't do "excessively well" on irrigating, having to shut down his system in early July. During good years, he irrigated to the middle of July, he said.

The amount of rain Hamilton has received makes it an oddity in Colorado, where most communities have received below average rainfall, Smith said. But even historically average rains can't make up for the below average snowfalls the state has been receiving.

"We'll need three years of good snowfall to get back to where we should be," Forbes said.

The combined forces of low snow and rain have dropped the level of the Yampa River to about 150 cubic feet per second near Maybell, according to data from the National Weather Service.

The good news is the weather service is predicting a wet fall.

"The rest of the year should be normal, so there is a chance to catch up," Smith said.

October is the third wettest month of the year for Hamilton, and the Weather Service is predicting that 1.8 inches of rain will fall there. October is the wettest month of the year for Craig, and September ties with August for the second wettest.

But Forbes could find some good in the autumn, even if it turns out to be dry.

"It'll be pretty colors," he said. "You get a lot better colors off the trees when it's been drier."

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