Holiday weather erratic

Dry wind, snow in store for weekend

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— The forecast for the Memorial Day weekend suggests people headed outdoors should be prepared for extremes.

"It's not often we see a fire weather watch and the possibility of snow in the same forecast, but it's not unheard of," said Chuck Vale, Routt County's director of emergency management.

The National Weather Ser--vice office in Grand Junction has posted a "red flag warning" for Western Colorado through early Sunday morning. By Sunday evening, there is a chance of snow in the Park Range from South Routt north along the Continental Divide.

The Weather Service reports that the combination of dry conditions, the potential for gusty winds and low humidity add up to increased fire danger on the Western Slope this holiday weekend. And although Vale said there isn't enough danger to prompt him to seek a fire ban, local fire and law enforcement dispatchers will discourage controlled burns during the weekend.

"Yes, it's dry. Yes, it's drier than normal," Vale said. "But we're not worried yet."

He urges campers and picnickers to use typical precautions to ensure fires are out before they leave the area. The Weather Service forecast for today calls for mostly sunny conditions and a high temperature in the mid-70s. It will be windy, with gusts as high as 30 mph.

After a slight chance of thunderstorms Sunday afternoon and high temperatures dropping into the mid-60s, the chance of precipitation increases overnight Sunday as a Pacific cold front moves into the region. The Weather Service forecasts a 30 percent chance of a mix of rain and snow with the overnight low dropping to 40 degrees.

Vale said he planned to tour the lower Elk River on Friday afternoon before calling Weather Service meteorologist, most likely to recommend that they lift the flood warning for the Elk River Valley.

"I'm very confident that we're OK," Vale said.

Spring runoff on the Elk River peaked at 5,500 cubic feet per second on Tuesday. Its flow of 3,720 cfs on Friday afternoon was about 1,400 cfs above the median for the date, but Vale doesn't expect to see it surge upward unless there's a significant rain storm.

The moderate daily high temperatures suggest the Yampa River also has peaked for the season. It nudged 4,000 cfs on Tuesday and was flowing at 3,100 cfs Friday afternoon.

There is still snow on Rabbit Ears Pass, but the measuring sites maintained by the Natural Resource Con--servation Service have melted to the ground.

The snow on Buffalo Pass is still the equivalent of almost 40 inches of water, but that is just 86 percent of average for the date.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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