Excessive heat. High winds. Low snowpack. Late freeze. Drought. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Friday sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking for assistance for counties impacted by the state's extreme weather. Here are the details.
* According to a press release offered by Hickenlooper's office, because of the severe drought conditions, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has been working with the USDA Farm Service Agency office to seek county-by-county disaster designation before each county shows the minimum crop loss.
* Generally, in order to qualify for USDA disaster assistance, each county must meet federal crop loss criteria and the governor must make a request to the Secretary of Agriculture. The governor hopes to speed the process up for getting USDA assistance to the entire state by having each county qualify for assistance immediately after certifying the supporting documentation showing crop loss.
* According to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, precipitation across Colorado remained far below average as of Monday, with most of the state's river basins below 70 percent of average.
* In June, NRCS reported that the statewide snowpack percentage was just 2 percent of average due to warm temperatures and below-average precipitation through the spring.
* The snowmelt runoff for most basins in Colorado was a month earlier than normal this year, NRCS stated. It was expected that streams across the state would flow at around 30 percent of average through July -- the worst volumes since 2002.
* The one bright spot regarding water availability in the state was that this year followed an extremely snowy one, with 2011 providing above average water storage in most major basins. The storage should provide some reprieve from the water shortages this summer, NRCS stated, though all water users should be prepared for shortages late in the season.
* This week, the governor also sent a request to Vilsack for freeze disaster designation for two counties on the western side of the state -- Mesa and Montrose -- due to a late freeze on April 7 and 8 which resulted in a 30 percent loss of grapes in Mesa County and an 85 percent loss of sweet cherries in Montrose County.
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