One-third of Colorado under moderate drought conditions as officials wary of wildfires, flooding

DENVER – More than one-third of Colorado is experiencing moderate drought conditions, and more than half the state is abnormally dry as we enter Flood Safety and Wildfire Awareness Week in Colorado.

The latest figures from the U.S. Drought Monitor show the entire eastern half of the state is abnormally dry, and that portions of each county east of the Rockies are experiencing moderate drought conditions.

Much of Lincoln County is also experiencing severe drought conditions.

And in Colorado’s southeastern-most county, Baca County, the gamut of drought conditions is present: The western half of the county is abnormally dry, but as one goes into the southeastern portions of the county, conditions go to moderate, severe and extreme drought.

This comes as Denver and much of the Eastern Plains prepares for another dry week, with no rain forecast and temperatures expected to reach the 70s and 80s during the day.

The monitor estimates 3.6 million people in Colorado are under drought conditions.

A year ago, 86 percent of the state was experiencing no drought conditions.

To contrast, the mountain basins are still above 100 percent snowpack for the year after bouts of heavy snow in January.

The dry weather has led to more than a dozen fires across the Front Range in the past two months, and comes ahead of the normal fire and flood season.

But Colorado is prone to fires and flooding year-round, and snow melt runoff and rain storms can create flooding quickly, especially in areas with recent burn scars from wildfires. The National Weather Service says that just a half-inch of run on a burn scar can lead to devastating flooding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 65,000 homes and 15,000 commercial and business buildings sit within Colorado’s floodplains.

In 2013, heavy rain along the Front Range combined with rain in northeastern Colorado led to heavy and devastating flash flooding along the Front Range from Greeley south, resulting in millions of dollars in damage.

All week, the National Weather Service and Colorado agencies are working to heighten awareness for fires and flooding across the state with Flood Safety and Wildfire Awareness Week. It is putting information online and teaching seminars about flood and fire insurance, red flag warnings, flood and fire weather watches and warnings, and other topics.

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