Million dollar storm wreaks havoc, brings smiles
May 27, 2009 | 7380 views | 0 0 comments | 1471 1471 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Buckley Jensen

“I have been farming in San Juan County for 66 years, and I can only remember one other year when we had a storm that will produce the benefits of this one,” said Monticello farmer David Fullmer on Sunday.

“If, as a dry land farmer, I had been able to order the perfect storm this year, it would not have been better than this one,” adds Kurt Lewis. “This has been a miracle for farmers and ranchers. It came at exactly the perfect time. The rain came slow, and it sank deep into the ground. It will bless this area for the rest of the summer.”

If the rain brought a million in benefit to some, it may have brought a million in damage to others.

While agricultural interests couldn’t be happier with nearly a week of rain, others were not so ecstatic. Heavy rains during the holiday weekend, caused the cancellation of a weekend of racing at Bull Hollow and flash floods resulted in destroyed vehicles and stranded campers in the Kane Springs area of northern San Juan County.

However, in general the rain was gentle enough in agricultural areas that no one was disappointed.

Rain began to fall gently and intermittently starting on Thursday, May 21. Skies were heavily overcast all day Friday and Saturday, with more intermittent showers. By Sunday, there was up to 2.6 inches of water in some rain-gauges in the Monticello area.

The good news is that the storms covered much of the county, and came slowly and gently, which allowed the moisture to sink deep without flooding.

Had that amount of rain come in a single prolonged storm, it could have caused more flooding and erosion damage. Historically, the Monticello area averages 16 inches of moisture a year. To get almost one sixth of it in this kind of storm in May occurs about once every 50 years, according to old timers.

May and June are traditionally the driest months of the year in San Juan County. Farmers depend on deep moisture from winter snowmelt to get a crop. If they are lucky enough to get rain this time of year, it can make a huge difference in the harvest.

Several area farmers were asked what difference this storm will make to their wheat yields in July. Answers ranged from a 20 to 50 percent increase in bushels per acre. While many other factors go into the yield, rain is key. As Fullmer said, “To get one like this at the perfect time in this area is as good as a miracle.”

The snowpack this winter, which started out late last fall at more than 100 percent of normal, turned into a bust.

With little snow in March and April, and practically no runoff into area reservoirs, the wheat and hay crops were beginning to wither. The Blue Mountains seem to be virtually devoid of snow, with no snow visible from Blanding in early May, and only a few isolated drifts visible from Monticello.

Put in perspective, a 30 percent increase in yield for 3,000 acres of wheat could increase output from 72,000 to 93,600 bushels. Any wonder why so many San Juaners are always praying for rain?

The same can be said for everyone else in agriculture. Forage for cattle will be increased. Farmers who had just finished planting their sunflowers before the rains began will have a fabulous crop.

Same thing for beans and dry land hay. In a couple of weeks wildflowers across the deserts and mountains of San Juan County may be a symphony of color and beauty.
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