A year ago, all parts of Wyoming were free of drought. Now, 2012 is on track to be the driest in Wyoming in 118 years after a dry spring and summer.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report found drought conditions across east central Wyoming had worsened with exceptional drought conditions in most of Goshen, Niobrara and Weston counties and parts of Converse, Campbell and Sweetwater counties.
Parts of central and southwest Wyoming got much more precipitation than normal in November but the report said that still wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of rain and snowfall earlier in the year.
The Dec. 20 report did find some easing of drought conditions in far western Wyoming.
There have been a total of 12.44 inches of precipitation in Gillette as of Sunday. That is below the average of 16.94 inches, but it is still not enough to make it one of the top 10 driest years on record, said Melissa Smith, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.
The driest year since measurements began 110 years ago is 1936, which produced a paltry 8.13 inches of precipitation.
While January, February, April, May and July were at or above average this year for precipitation, that was offset by dry months in March, June, August and September.
October was only slightly below average in the county and November was close to the average.
The warm temperatures didn’t help anything either, with Gillette posting a record average temperature of 73.2 degrees in the summertime, and evaporating much of what moisture there was.
The dry year followed an extremely wet year in 2011, which had a whopping 26.33 inches of precipitation, the second wettest year on record, Smith said.
The year could go out with a bit more moisture after all.
The storm arriving Christmas Eve has a good chance of putting 2 to 4 inches of snow on the ground, with the potential for more of the white stuff to fall in the south of the county, Smith said.
There won’t be too much wind to go with that snow, but cold conditions will mean that anyone going outside will want to bundle up.
The National Weather Service predicts a high of 16 degrees on Tuesday. Wind chill values could go as far as negative 10 to negative 20 degrees, said Smith.
By Thursday, another storm could roll in, bringing more snowfall with it.
The Associated Press Contributed to this report.