Teton County not in drought
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
July 23, 2012
When Gov. Matt Mead requested last week that all Wyoming counties receive a drought disaster declaration, he specifically omitted Teton.
Following U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s designation of two more Wyoming counties as primary natural disaster areas because of drought, 16 counties in the state now qualify for federal drought assistance.
The federal drought disaster declaration makes agricultural operators eligible for some assistance from the Farm Service Agency.
That Teton County wasn’t included in the governor’s request wasn’t a shocker to meteorologist Jim Woodmencey.
“Personally, I’m not surprised by that,” Woodmencey, who operates the online weather site MountainWeather.com, said. “The rest of Wyoming is much drier than Teton County.”
Officially, the county is designated as “abnormally dry,” Woodmencey said. As nearby as Rock Springs, however, the designation is “extreme.”
Between Jan. 1 and July 1, Teton County received 6.98 inches of precipitation, counting both snow and rain, Woodmencey said. The average is 8.29 inches.
“We’re a little behind on total precip, but we’ve been as dry before,” Woodmencey said.
In the storied wildfire year of 1988, Teton County received 6.99 inches between Jan. 1 and July 1, almost exactly the same amount of precipitation as this year, Woodmencey said.
The difference between 1988 and 2012 is in summer precipitation, the meteorologist said.
“We’ve already had three-quarters of an inch, and a normal July is 1.05 inches,” he said, “whereas in 1988, we had absolutely no precipitation in the month of July.”
Because of a change in weather-reading instruments, precipitation readings this year should not be taken as absolute, Woodmencey said. On Feb. 1, Teton County switched from a manual device administered by the U.S. Forest Service to an automated device.
With the new device, “sometimes precipitation comes out too low and sometimes it comes out too high,” he said.
Recent rainfall led Teton Interagency Fire to lower the fire danger in the area’s national parks and forests from “very high” to “high” Tuesday.
Counties that received primary disaster designation are Hot Springs, Laramie, Carbon, Sweetwater, Uinta, Lincoln, Sublette and Fremont. Counties that qualify as contiguous counties are Albany, Natrona, Converse, Platte, Gosh-
en, Washakie, Park and Teton.
The vast majority of 13 U.S. states, including most of the Southwest, have received primary disaster designation.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.