Saturday, August 11, 2001
Steamboat Springs In India, monsoon season hits the cities and the countryside with walls of rain that flood the streets.
In Routt County, the impact of "monsoon season", a phenomenon occurring throughout the southwest during July and August, is not quite as dramatic but it can alter the climate enough to turn the tides for business people and firefighters alike.
In the past week, thunderstorms have been a regular occurrence in this dry valley, drenching the county with rain and hail.
Jim Daniels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the consistent rainfall was typical for this time of year. Between Wednesday evening and Friday morning the area received about .82 inches of rain, Daniels said. Daniels relies on information from locals who work with the National Weather Service to provide rainfall information.
Daniels said the rain comes from high pressure systems over the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean down around Baja, Cal. Moisture is lifted into the air and after coming into contact with unstable low pressure systems over the southwest, the rain and lightning storms erupt, Daniels said.
The storms have been a mixed blessing for firefighters in the area, cooling and moistening the air to slow fires while increasing the chances of lightning strikes which can cause fires to flare up.
By the end of the week, the Mad Creek fire had dissipated a bit, with the rain dampening the dry fuel in the blowdown area for at least a few days. Past rain storms this summer have slowed the fire, but have not been able to suppress it completely as it flares up again when the dry weather returns.
The rain has caused finer fuels such as grass to become moist but may not make a significant impact with larger fuels such as timber, said Lynn Barclay of the Craig interagency dispatch office.
There were a total of 3,490 lightning strikes counted in northwest Colorado between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon, Barclay said.
Barclay said the lightning strikes can also cause "holdover fires", which can lay low for days before flaring up.
Firefighting teams are constantly on the lookout for the delayed fires, often tracking lightning strikes to determine where a holdover fire is likely to occur, Barclay said.
For owners of businesses that depend on river flow for fun and profit, the rain has been a welcome attraction.
As far as the amount of moisture goes, this summer has been about as perfect as summer can be, claims Back Door Sport Owner Pete Van De Carr.
"You can't have too much money. You can't have too many friends. And you can't have too much rain," Van De Carr said.
Van De Carr said the water has stayed up over 100 cfs for most of the summer, despite an earlier-than-usual dip with dry weather in June.
The river was flowing at 167 cubic feet per second Saturday, according to the United States Geological Survey.
Van De Carr said the river is usually around 75 cfs at this time of year.
For ranchers in Routt County, monsoon season rain is a regular occurrence that can cause serious problems depending on how long it lasts.
Jo Stanko, a local rancher, said she usually cuts hay just before the rains and then waits the monsoon season out before putting it up into bales.
Stanko said the rain usually does not last long enough to make her worry about mold developing, though people who put hay up for horses often dislike the rain more than others.Stanko said the hay loses about 1 percent of its protein after the rain, but that overall it is not a major problem.
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