Dry days of May

Lack of rainfall has locals worried

Billy Green's Dry Fork Ranch north of Craig is living up to its name this year.

An arid May that combined with hot winds to leave the land parched is wreaking havoc on grass crops.

And if the weather doesn't change soon, drought conditions at Dry Fork Ranch and across Moffat County could get worse.

"If we don't get some rain here pretty quick, it's gonna get pretty dry," Green said.

Although the conditions are dry at his ranch, Green said conditions in the western end of the county are probably worse.

Green is one of many local landowners concerned that a dry May could lead to a dry summer in Northwest Colorado.

Usually, landowners can count on seasonal rains to provide the water they need.

But not this year.

"We haven't got our late-May rains," Green said.

Less than 0.6 inches of precipitation fell near Craig in May, down from 1.35 inches in May 2005, according to the National Weather Service.

The rainfall in the region was even worse last month when compared to the average precipitation during the past 29 years, which is 1.48 inches for May, according to the weather service.

Jim Pringle, with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said it is hard to determine whether the rest of the summer will bring the precipitation landowners need.

Forecasts predict there are equal chances of heavy rain, light rain and normal rain.

But it is likely that the summer will be hotter than usual, Pringle said.

"We might see some spells of very warm temperatures this summer," he said.

Statewide, an average winter left a decent snow pack, said Petra Barnes, a spokeswoman for the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conser--vation Service in Denver.

But most of the snow pack flows into reservoirs, where it isn't much help to farmers and ranchers.

"If we don't get the rain that we need, farmers can't just tap into those reservoirs," Barnes said.

What landowners need now is rain, he said.

"Right now we're dealing with a lack of precipitation across the state," Barnes said.

For local ranchers, the lack of precipitation has been a hot topic.

Tim Kulp at MJK Sales & Feed in Craig said many of the ranchers and farmers who come into the store are worried about the dry weather.

"It's definitely a major issue," Kulp said.

The weather is dry, but it's still early in the year and wouldn't take much to bring crops and rangeland back to normal, he said.

"One good rain, and it will put us right back where we need to be," Kulp said.

But for Green, a few more weeks without rain could ruin the entire year's hay crop.

"If it's gonna come," Green said of the rain, "it needs to come now."

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