Sun blazes on over dry valley; no relief in sight

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— Still waiting for the monsoon season? If so, you may be waiting a little while longer.

Since a brief band of rain cooled off the Yampa Valley about two weeks ago, a high-pressure system that is now over Utah and Nevada has effectively stopped all the moisture that usually reaches Colorado from mid-July through August.

"It's almost like that high-pressure system is feeding off the hot air," meteorologist Chris Jones said.

Mid-July through August usually marks one of the rainiest times of the year for Steamboat, averaging 4.68 inches of precipitation. Forecasters had earlier predicted that this year's monsoon season would be wetter than most, but that's all changed now.

"Typically, the monsoon refers to the point in the season that we get tropical moisture from the south," Jones said.

That moisture is usually driven up by a high-pressure system southeast of Colorado, often in the Texas area. This year, the high pressure is to the west, which stops that moisture from coming this far north, meteorologist Joe Ramey said.

"So we're missing out," he added.

Instead, most of that moisture is staying in Mexico and the southern parts of New Mexico and Arizona.

It's expected to remain dry for some time, with a slight chance of rain forecasted for the south part of Colorado, but nothing in the Steamboat area, Jones said.

That doesn't help the fire problems that nearly every western state is having. Most of the fires in Colorado have been completely contained, including all the Moffat County blazes, said Diann Pipher, fire information officer at the Craig Interagency Dispatch.

Fires in other states, like Montana and Idaho are still burning. Smoke from those blazes has been lingering throughout most of northern Colorado, including the Yampa Valley, all weekend, Jones said. That's why the skies are hazy and sunsets have been blood red.

The fire danger is still high in Colorado and officials are worried.

The Routt County Sheriff's Office answered two fire calls on Sunday night, both for fires that were started on purpose. One was a campfire near the River Road bridge and the other was someone burning trash on County Road 41A.

Both cases are under investigation and a summons or a warrant is expected to be issued for each, Sheriff John Warner said.

"I am not issuing any (permits for burning) at all until we get some substantial moisture," he said.

Moisture isn't expected to come to the area until the high pressure system moves or disappears, which could be another two weeks, Jones said.

No one really knows why the high pressure system changed its proximity this year, but it goes right along with the unusual weather that most of Colorado has experienced for the past year, Jones said.

"This is not totally uncommon," he said. "It just happens sometimes."

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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