Photo by John F. Russell
Routt County employee Tim McDonald uses a power broom Thursday morning to clean rocks and other roadside debris out of the lawn between the Routt County Jail and U.S. Highway 40. This year’s unseasonably high temperatures have allowed spring cleaning to begin early in the Yampa Valley, but they also have brought dry conditions along with red flag warnings.
Steamboat Springs Mother Nature’s lack of appetite for winter this ski season won’t change anytime soon, as the unseasonably warm and dry weather will continue through the weekend into next week.
High-country snowmelt fueled by the warm weather had the Yampa River running at 480 cubic feet per second where it passes under the Fifth Street bridge in downtown Steamboat Springs on Thursday afternoon. The historic average streamflow for April 5 was 301 cfs.
At the U.S. Geological Survey snow measuring site at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass, the snow depth was 68 inches Thursday. The amount of water stored in the snowpack, referred to as snow-water equivalent, was 27.8 inches. The historic snow-water equivalent average for the date is 54 inches.
Snow depth and snow-water equivalent numbers will continue to fall this weekend with temperatures forecast in the 50s and 60s. Friday’s high temperature is projected to reach 60 degrees with winds gusting up to 30 mph. Saturday’s high will hover in the mid-50s before a return to 2012 normalcy Sunday, when the high will hit the upper 60s under blue skies. The thermometer could surpass 70 on Monday and Tuesday of next week.
Wind, dry vegetation and warm weather continue to raise the risk of fire. A red flag warning was in effect for much of Northwest Colorado, including Routt County, until 8 p.m. Thursday. Similar warnings could be issued Friday and this weekend as dry, windy conditions persist.
According to the red flag warning issued Thursday, “any fire ignitions will be very difficult to control with high rates of spread ... even simple agricultural burns will risk a loss of control.”
Routt County fire agencies have responded to at least eight agricultural burns that have gotten out of control in the past two weeks. Officials have declined to put a temporary fire ban into place because they say criteria for doing so haven’t been met.