Mel LeBlanc and James Mowatt pedal home with all the ingredients for a night in Thursday afternoon after a quick downtown shopping trip in Steamboat Springs. Intermittent bands of rain and hail swept across Steamboat on Thursday, but the weekend looks sunny.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Mel LeBlanc and James Mowatt pedal home with all the ingredients for a night in Thursday afternoon after a quick downtown shopping trip in Steamboat Springs. Intermittent bands of rain and hail swept across Steamboat on Thursday, but the weekend looks sunny.

Cold rain gives way to warming trend in Steamboat

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— The forecast for the next few days in Routt County calls for irrigation boots and Hawaiian shirts. High temperatures are expected to reach the 70s by Saturday and remain significantly above average for the next eight to 10 days.

If it was a one-week mud season that settled over Steamboat this week, it at least brought some relief from unseasonably warm and dry conditions with more than a half-inch of precipitation Wednesday night.

Steamboat weather observer Art Judson reported that as of 7 a.m. Thursday, 0.55 inches of precipitation had fallen in the preceding 24 hours. That marked the greatest 24-hour precipitation at Judson's weather station between downtown and the ski mountain since a snowstorm Feb. 22, he said.
 The morning's precipitation reading was attributable to 0.39 inches of rain and 0.7 inches of snow that yielded 0.16 inches of moisture.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction consulted a snow-measuring site on Buffalo Pass and reported 8 inches of snow had fallen above 10,000 feet there overnight.

By 3:30 p.m. Thursday, a stiff shower of rain mixed with graupel was pelting the west side of the city.

The Weather Service had posted a winter weather advisory early Thursday morning anticipating additional accumulations of 4 to 8 inches of snow above 9,000 feet in the Park and Elkhead ranges by Friday morning. However, meteorologist intern Travis Booth said at midafternoon that the energy of the low-pressure trough that was the engine behind the forecast already was dissipating and unlikely to produce that much snow.

“What we’re seeing right now is the remainder of the scattered showers moving through,” Booth said. “You’re going to warm up rather quickly. There’s nothing super promising (in terms of precipitation) for the next eight to 10 days.”

The Weather Service was forecasting mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s Friday followed by more bluebird skies and daily highs hitting the mid to high 70s Saturday through Monday.

Colorado State University Extension Agent Todd Hagenbuch said the cold rain that fell Wednesday night has the potential to accelerate the transformation of the valley and lower elevation hay meadows from late winter to spring.

“The frost line has gone down to a level below where grass (hay) roots are,” Hagenbuch said. “I anticipate with this recent moisture, our hay meadows that have been cut (last summer) will green up.”

Hagenbuch said he has some concerns about the outlook for dryland hay meadows this summer. Ultimately, it will be summer rains that make the difference for those unirrigated fields he said.

For farmers and ranchers, this spring has been the opposite of spring 2011, when snow lingered in the valley into May and rivers that had overflowed their banks kept hay meadows flooded with cold runoff well into June, Hagenbuch added.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com

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