Officials say 2013 is shaping to be at least as dry as 2012 for the Natrona County area.

On Monday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported that the Lower North Platte drainage basin — from Alcova to the Nebraska state line — has received about 30 percent of the average snowfall this season as compared to the last 30 years. This is the lowest percentage of any drainage basin in the state.

Friday’s precipitation will make little difference. According to meteorologist Chuck Baker of the National Weather Service in Riverton, most Casper reports placed snowfall by Friday afternoon at a half an inch to 2 inches. Baker said he didn’t expect to see more than another inch by midnight and said it’s unlikely there will be any further snowfall until next week.

The markedly arid conditions means a slower start to ski season on Casper Mountain. Right now, only two runs, Park and Morning Dew, are open at the Hogadon Ski Area, according to Casper Leisure Series Marketing Director Anna Wyttenback.

“We’re not sure when we’ll be able to open additional runs or anything of that nature,” she said. “We are hoping for a great snowstorm to change the course of this season.”

County officials say the conditions could affect the summer season as well.

“It’s been an extremely dry winter,” said Lt. Stewart Anderson of the Natrona County Emergency Management Administration.

Anderson said although Casper Mountain received record snowfall last year, a warm spring prompted the water to simply run off instead of allowing the moisture to soak into the ground.

Another dry, warm winter and spring not only signifies another summer fire season, but could also cause livestock grazing issues and burning bans.

“We’re in a pretty good drought,” Anderson said. “We’re not starting out any better [than last year] at all.”

Reach crime reporter Megan Cassidy at 307-266-0534 or megan.cassidy@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @meganrcassidy.

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