Chill and showers closing out 2021 in Southern Utah, but drought relief still in doubt

In this file photo, a rainstorm advances, as seen from Hurricane, Utah, in 2018 | Photo courtesy of Danielle Nicole, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A wet December will become even wetter to close out 2021. And depending on where someone is in Southern Utah, it’s going to be a rainy or snowy end to the year. 

Stock image | Photo by Tanawut Punketnakorn/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

After some traces of precipitation on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said it will be raining or snowing for the rest of the year in the five counties, with another storm moving in late Wednesday and sticking around through Friday. And while this storm won’t make any top 10 list, it will come close. 

“We’re expecting 1.75 inches in St. George, which would put it around the 15th wettest rainfall ever in St. George, and that goes back to the 1890s,” said Christine Kruse, who works with the weather service’s Salt Lake City office. “So it’s significant but not record-breaking.”

It will still be more rain in the next three days than has fallen in St. George in the other 28 days of the month combined. Despite what has felt to many like a rainy December, St. George has seen fuller buckets.  

Kruse said so far in December, St. George has had 1.28 inches of rain in a month that usually averages 3.44 inches of rain. And the upcoming storm would have to be biblical to get the St. George area to reach the 10 inches of rain it averages per year. As of Wednesday, St. George has had 2.6 inches of rain in 2021, even with a heavier monsoonal summer that included record flash flooding in some nearby areas. 

Graphic shows possible snowfall totals in Southern Utah from Dec. 29 to 31, 2021 | Photo courtesy of National Weather Service-Salt Lake City office, St. George News

Cedar City, which saw its own damaging flash flood over the summer, will have a kind of flash snow in the next few days. 

Kruse said 5 inches of snow are possible in the Cedar City area, nearly half the 10.8 inches of snow that has fallen over the rest of the month — and some of those snowflakes may be seen to the south.

“It’s not going to be the world’s biggest storm, but there will be periods of snow through at least Friday evening,” Kruse said. “And there’s some potential for a little snow in the air for St. George. You might see a few snowflakes if you get up to Toquerville.”

The local mountains, including Brian Head, will have much more snow to dig out from – between 16 to 24 inches of snow in the elevations above 7,000 feet. 

A graphic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the snowpack totals in Utah as of Dec. 28, 2021 compared with the average from 1991 to 2020 | Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture, St. George News | Click to enlarge

That snowpack in the south and the north is bringing possible relief for the ongoing drought. Water officials had previously said they have needed an above-average snowpack this winter or cities might need to step up water-saving efforts even more in the spring.   

And thus far, they’re getting that wish. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s snow survey said the snowpack in Southern Utah is 72% above average at this point, and just about all of Utah’s mountains are at or above average for this time of year.

But Kruse said as far as the bowl game of defeating the drought is concerned, it’s not even halftime.

“Every bit we get is positive, but we won’t know the outcome until we see where the snowpack ends up at the end of the season,” Kruse said. “We have to see if this pattern continues through the winter.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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