March 13, 2012
Gila County has slipped into “severe” drought and as a result, Roosevelt Lake now has just 1.1 million-acre feet — about 67 percent of its capacity.
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The drought has returned with a vengeance to Rim Country, draining reservoirs and raising fears of a fierce, early fire season. Blame La Niña — below-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific that often produce dry winters in the Southwestern United States as a counterpoint to wetter than normal winters in the Pacific Northwest. Normally, the watershed of the Tonto National Forest gets about 4 inches of rain in January and February. This year, we’ve received well under one inch —and most of that fell in January. The figures look even worse for Payson so far this year. Normally, between January and the end of March Payson gets 6.28 inches. So far, we’ve had just .29 of an inch.