Smoke rolls into Steamboat

Effects of Glenwood wildfire evident throughout valley

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— Over the weekend, residents in Routt County saw some of the effects of a large wildfire that is burning near Glenwood Springs.

The most obvious was a thick plume of smoke that blew into the valley Saturday afternoon, making the sky hazy through Sunday evening.

"I can see smoke coming right from the Glenwood Springs area moving into the Park and Gore ranges," said Joe Ramey, a forecaster for the National Weather Service.

Ramey was looking at information from imagery and Doppler Radar that picked up the smoke plume, which consists of tiny ash particles. He said the instruments showed the plume moving along the ground and being as high as 20,000 feet.

A weather spotter who lives just south of Steamboat Springs, about 100 miles away from the wildfire, reported that the plume rained ash in some places of the county.

It appears that the thickest portions of the smoke cloud was being moved by a north-blowing wind up the Bear and Yampa River valleys and then into northern Routt County where it dispersed.

"It's basically a clear day up here," said Mike Mead, who was at Steamboat Lake State Park. He said he hadn't seen any ash in the air all weekend.

Some reports said the smoke was the thickest in southern Routt County.

"You can definitely see the smoke. You can tell there is a fire in the vicinity," Oak Creek resident Jim Photos said while looking out of his house. "Right now you can see the haze against the mountainside."

However, he added that it was still a beautiful day.

The overhead skies were clear on Saturday evening in the Kremmling area, but residents could see a large distinct brown cloud blowing north in the western sky. At about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, that same cloud made the sun appear red, and at times blacked out the sun.

Ramey said the air could be cleaner today because of a cold front blowing into the Yampa Valley. It will cause the wind to blow more to the west and possibly clear the skies.

Residents in Routt County also saw an increase in traffic thanks to the Glenwood Springs fire. Interstate 70 was closed between Wolcott and Rifle while firefighters fought the blaze.

All traffic was detoured to U.S. 40 and Colorado 131 around the closed stretch of road.

"We've got a big increase in traffic because of the detour," Steamboat Springs police officer Bill Stucker said.

In Steamboat, cars were lined up at stoplights, creating some difficulties for motorists traveling through town.

Colo. 131 also saw a heavy increase in traffic.

"It's been pretty busy all day," said Lynde Sales, who was working at Lombardi's Rite Stop in Yampa on Colo. 131.

She said it was on of the busiest days she has seen in the history of the road.

There was a two-car accident west of Steamboat on U.S. 40 with minor injuries, but Stucker said it was hard to tell if the increased traffic was a factor in the accident.

Stephen and Franceen Locks, of Henderson, Nev. were among the travelers who made an unexpected trip through Steamboat Springs on Sunday.

They were driving east on Interstate 70 to Denver for their daughter's wedding when they came upon the road closure signs in Rifle and were directed through Steamboat.

"We were hoping to get to Denver today," Stephen said.

The estimated 200-mile detour may change their plans.

However, he admitted the detour at least was a scenic one.

One direction of traffic on Interstate 70 may remain closed until today, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

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