Explanation for haze over Steamboat is hazy

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— The source of the haze that lingered over Steamboat Springs much of Monday was, well, hazy.

The haze was reported in an area stretching from the western border of the state to the Front Range.

"We have had reports from Vail, Glenwood Springs and even eastern Colorado," said Dan Cuevas, a technician with the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction. "It's pretty widespread, but we don't know what the source is."

Typically, haze is caused by smoke from a large fire burning somewhere in the vicinity. Cuevas said haze can blow in with the wind from fires thousands of miles away.

Last summer, fires within a 30-mile radius of Steamboat Springs -- as well as the Hayman fire and fires in Glenwood Springs and Durango -- created a haze that intermittently lingered over the city for much of June and July. But there were no major fires in the area Monday. The sheriff's offices in Routt, Moffat and Grand counties were not aware of any fires in their counties.

Cuevas said there were widespread reports of haze from fire dispatchers all over the Rocky Mountains, but the Weather Service could not pinpoint a source.

"No one has an answer," Cuevas said, "but we're working hard to find an answer."

Bob Maddox of Mountain Flight Service said his pilots reported that the haze seemed to originate at the Continental Divide and covered much of the Western Slope. He said the haze lingered at about 12,000 feet and that the pilots said the haze did not look like smoke from fires. The haze did not affect flight operations.

The wind blew from the west most of Monday. Wildfires were burning Monday in California in the towns of Del Puerto and Bird, and in Tok River, Alaska, and Boiler, N.M. Cuevas said it is possible that smoke from one of those fires made its way to Colorado before dispersing in the atmosphere.

The largest and closest fire is in Boiler, where the fire that began April 17 already has consumed more than 46,000 acres of ponderosa pines, pinon, junipers and grassy fields.

Cuevas said he didn't think the Boiler fire was the source.

"I find it hard to believe the smoke would make its way up there" Cuevas said. "Earlier, three or four days ago, it might be possible."

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