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Sat, June 06

Tornado sweeps into area with rain<br>

Several trees rest on the ground following a brief tornado that visited an area two miles north of Bellemont Sept. 9.

So what did the summer storms mean for Williams? Aside from making the grass a bit greener, the answer is not much.

As of Aug. 14, Williams’ five water reservoirs were only at eight- percent total capacity, putting the city on a “level three” water restriction alert. The latest reading, taken on Sept. 10, puts the total capacity at 12 percent, keeping it still at level three.

“We won’t be out of trouble until we get our lakes at 100 percent which we haven’t been at since about 1995,” reports Ron Stilwell, Williams’ water and waste water superintendent, who went on to explain that snow, rather than rain water, is what helps the most. “Typically, we get all that from our snow melt and spring runoff. The only thing the monsoons help the city with is people water their lawns less so there’s less demand.”

The city uses the Williams Ski Area as its measuring stick for the spring runoff. Officials say four to five feet of base snow is required for the melting runoff to fully recharge the city’s reservoir lakes.

When asked what the upcoming winter season might look like, the NWS referred to the Climatic Prediction Center, which it uses for long-range forecasts. Although weather isn’t an exact science and long-range forecasts are even less exact, the CPC estimates this winter’s precipitation will be greater than in recent years, but that northern Arizona may see slightly higher temperatures than normal. This means more precipitation for sure, but possibly in the form of more rain than snow.

Jackie Denk, Public Information Officer for the Kaibab National Forest says the same contrast between rain and snow applies to both fire danger and the bark beetle problem because most heavy rainfall quickly runs off as opposed to melting snow, which is absorbed slowly.

“It is good to hear that at least the potential is there for an average winter. That’s going to be really critical in terms of the bark beetles and in terms of what fire danger we’ll be looking at next year,” states Denk. “Part of the problem going into this fire season and the fire season before that was that we hadn’t had the winter snow-pack, so we didn’t have that consistent moisture from the snow melt.”

Denk admitted the recent rainfall did do some good, but was quick to point out that even with a large amount of winter snow and yearly moisture, the only solid way to promote true forest health is increased thinning.

“When you look back to, for instance, pre-settlement times there were droughts but there were so fewer trees around that the trees that were there could defend themselves,” said Denk. “When instead of maybe 10 to 20 trees per acre you have 100-400 per acre all competing for the same water and nutrients, any drought is going to be absolutely devastating, and that’s we we’ve been seeing.”

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