Little snowpack may compound drought, fire danger

Posted at: 01/18/2013 6:04 PM
Updated at: 01/18/2013 6:16 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The disappointing snowpack could have some serious consequences later in the year. With low runoff in the springtime, it would be another horrible year for New Mexico farmers and ranchers, and another devastating forest fire season.

The low snowpack numbers have fire meteorologist Brent Wachter worried as he monitors the situation at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque.

"If you don't have much of a snowpack then it goes away early," Wachter said. "All of a sudden the fuels dry out and it's game on - or flame on!"

Last year brought the biggest forest fire in state history in the Gila Wilderness. People who live in and around new Mexico's mountain forests know it could happen again this year.

Vernon Marsh has lived in the Sandia Mountains for 31 years.

"The forest is very dense and I really worry that if a fire got started it would be a terrible job to get it put out," Marsh said.

"I try to keep my car full of gas," said Charlotte Merrill, who has lived in the Sandias for 40 years. "We live up on top of the mountain and I just hope I can get off."

Tom Brahl of Cedar Crest wants more snow.

"I just hope we get hammered for the next two months and have to dig out with all kinds of misery with the snow," Brahl said. "That's a problem I would absolutely welcome.'

The dismal snowpack picture does have one ray of hope. There's a chance that the state could get some wet weather in the springtime from the Gulf of Mexico.

"That intrusion of moisture would mitigate the danger of forest fire season," said Wachter. " We'll have to wait and see."