Recent snow welcome but not enough to make difference in drought at Cheyenne Bottoms

Even with all of the snowfall, the Wetlands Education Center says more moisture is needed to make difference in the area.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 11:32 PM CST
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BARTON COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) - Much of central Kansas received measurable snowfall this past weekend, including Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County. The moisture was welcome to the area in desperate need of it, but the key question is how much of a difference, if any, it made to combat extended drought.

Tuesday, 12 News looked into the recent snow’s effect on Cheyenne Bottoms, a wetland occupying about 41,000 acres.

“We had about four inches of snow, and it was a pretty decent wet snow,” said Wetlands Education Center Director Curtis Wolf. “As far as Cheyenne Bottoms, it might not have done much to break the drought and the dry conditions we have.”

Wolf said it’s going to take far more snow than what recently fell to make a difference in Cheyenne Bottoms.

“In 2022 we only recorded about 17 inches of rain for the year, and that’s about nine inches below our average,” he said.

Last year, it rained 45 times at the wetlands in Barton County. That also wasn’t near enough to change to current situation when it comes to drought.

“Those 45 event, most of them were smaller rain events and just didn’t provide the necessary runoff,” Wolf said.

For Cheyenne Bottoms, he said just getting the ground wet isn’t enough.

“We are almost solely dependent on runoff and large rains to create the water in the wetlands themselves,” Wolf explained. “Hard storms in short periods of time is really what we need. So, getting two, three, four-inch rains is really going to be beneficial to the wetlands.

But, Wolf said, based on history, he believes they could see much more of the needed storms this year.

“We don’t know what the forecast is, the long-term forecast, but we can be hopeful that we’ll get some nice rain events early on,” he said.