NWS: Monsoons on horizon

Rains could come as early as July 4

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— Steamboat residents could finally see rain after experiencing the fourth driest June since 1893. The downpour is predicted to begin on the Fourth of July, ushering in the beginning of an early monsoon season, said Joe Ramey, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

"For the rest of the summer, we are looking at heavy rainfall potential," he said.

In Steamboat, July is typically the driest month of the year. Monsoon season usually begins in August.

The rains will continue through August, per the norm, Ramey said.

The Yampa Valley saw a third of an inch of precipitation in June compared to the inch and a half usually recorded.

The strange weather, he said, is not easily explained. It does, however, fall within normal weather patterns.

The drought may have seemed hard to bear for residents of Steamboat, but the valley actually fared better than the rest of the state.

"Steamboat did better this winter than most of Colorado," Ramey said. "Your snowpack was 75 percent of normal, but that is still more than the Front Range."

Though this was one of the driest Junes in a century, there is no indication that next year is going to be dry, Ramey said.

Kristen Pryce of Windemere Landscape and Garden Center has been working for the landscape company in Steamboat for three summers. This year has been particularly hard, she said.

"This summer has been constantly hot and constantly sunny," Pryce said. "With weather like that, it has been really hard to keep our new plants adequately watered."

Pryce expected the dry weather would keep people from gardening, but she said that has not been the case.

The lack of moisture was coupled by an unusual heat wave.

Ramey said western Colorado recorded temperatures five degrees above normal.

"For every day of the month that is a huge number," he said.

The heat has driven Steamboat residents to the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center pool by the droves, front desk employee Terin Petersen said.

"It's packed this year," she said. Petersen has worked at the Health and Rec center for 19 years. "We are busy every day.

"We thank the weather," Petersen said. "If you want to cool off, there is nowhere else to go in Steamboat. The river is too low to tube. This is the place to be."

The heat combined with the lack of moisture led to extreme fire danger and a statewide fire and fireworks ban.

The upcoming rain will eventually wet forests enough to reduce the potential for wildfire, but it will not happen immediately, Ramey said.

"Even with two or three soaking rains, the fuel on the forest floor is still extremely dry," he said. "Caution is still needed into the rainy season. Don't be fooled into smoking cigarettes in the pine needles."

To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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