The Four Corners region of the Southwest was the epicenter of exceptional drought in the United States, with fire restrictions widespread as the summer heated up, wildfires flared and the Fourth of July holiday season neared. Extreme fire conditions led more national forests to close to visitors. Water supplies were not as robust as they could be, prompting some communities to enact water restrictions to cope with reduced supplies.
The NDMC added 257 impacts to the Drought Impact Reporter in June, with 63 for Texas, documenting crop damage and vegetation drying out earlier than usual. Colorado and New Mexico followed with 45 and 25 impacts, respectively, listing numerous fire restrictions as the drought primed the region for wildfires.
Drought parching Texas crops
Drought was harsh in the Texas Panhandle and South Plains in early June, parching crops and drying up pastures, and it is expected to keep the cotton from germinating. The dry weather in parts of the state kept crops and pastures from growing at a normal rate, prompting growers to irrigate where possible.
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network observers noted many instances of stressed vegetation turning brown for lack of rain.
Texas Crop and Weather Report - June 5, 2018, by Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife Today (College Station, Texas), June 5, 2018
Colorado wildfires lead to fire restrictions
Extreme and exceptional drought in the southern part of Colorado had most counties under fire and fireworks restrictions as several wildfires burned. The 416 Fire had people on edge as winds continued to drive flames across an arid landscape. The 416 Fire began June 1, burned more than 51,000 acres, and was 37 percent contained a month later on July 2. The heightened fire danger led officials to close the San Juan National Forest on June 12 until rains from Hurricane Bud brought enough moisture to lower the fire danger, allowing the forest to reopen on June 21. Full containment of the blaze was not expected until the end of July.
San Juan National Forest to close Tuesday because of fire danger, The Associated Press, Fort Collins Coloradoan (Colorado), June 11, 2018
San Juan National Forest near Durango reopens as officials urge caution amid dry conditions, by The Associated Press, Fort Collins Coloradoan (Colorado), June 21, 2018
416 fire on InciWeb
Wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona force closure of large chunks of forest, by Trevor Hughes, USA Today (McLean, Virginia), June 12, 2018
Water supplies low in southern Colorado
After a winter of poor snowfall, relatively low water supplies in parts of Colorado triggered reduced water allotments in southwest Colorado, where dire conditions meant hay was not growing, hay supplies were very short, and producers were selling cattle.
The headwaters of the Rio Grande River in southern Colorado were flowing exceedingly slowly, with one tributary already dried up, meaning there will be little to no water for famers to use. State water authorities expect that the main stem of the river will not even flow into New Mexico this summer.
Hay shortage in Southwest Colorado could hit ranchers hard, by Jonathan Romeo, The Cortez Journal (Colorado), June 24, 2018
Vanishing Rio Grande puts pressure on San Luis Valley farmers during extreme drought, by Bruce Finley, The Denver Post, June 22, 2018
Fire restrictions common, forest closed in New Mexico
In addition to many fire and fireworks restrictions across New Mexico, most of the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico was closed, because of intense drought and heightened fire danger in the region. The closure meant that all recreational activities, including camping and hiking, were prohibited.
Low water supplies challenged growers in New Mexico, too, forcing farmers to use less water and grow fewer crops as rivers and irrigation systems carry less water. Reports of rivers drying up in the central part of the state worried growers in the north, who feared that would be their fate soon as stream flows slowed. Water rationing began in the spring, but there still was no way to stretch the water to meet farmers’ needs.
Carson National Forest closes indefinitely, by Sarah Halasz Graham, Santa Fe New Mexican, June 25, 2018
Drought challenges Northern New Mexico farmers, by Andy Stiny, Santa Fe New Mexican, May 26, 2018
For more details, see the Drought Impact Reporter.