Routt County drought conditions downgraded from 'extreme' to 'severe'

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— Drought conditions in Routt County were downgraded this week from “extreme” to “severe.”

It is the first time since the week of May 22 that the county has been at the lower drought level.

“That’s good news,” Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble said. “We’re getting good rains.”

Conditions are still drier than normal, but it is a relief for some to see conditions becoming wetter rather than drier.

During a two-week period in the beginning of July, drought conditions for parts of Routt County were upped to “exceptional," a rating that state climatologist Nolan Doesken has said is reserved for “the worst of the worst.” According to the Palmer Drought Index, the area needed between 6 and 9 inches of rain to return to normal moisture levels.

Almost as soon as drought conditions were categorized as “exceptional,” monsoonal moisture started arriving in the region and resulted in more than 3 inches of rain in Steamboat Springs during July. After two weeks of “exceptional” drought conditions, the rating was lowered to “extreme.”

Struble said this week’s downgrading to “severe” will be seen as good news by regional fire management officials who meet weekly on Tuesdays to discuss fire conditions.

Fire restrictions already have been lowered from Stage 2 restrictions to Stage 1 restrictions in the Routt National Forest, state-owned lands and unincorporated parts of Routt County.

With continued moisture and a lower drought rating, Struble said local fire officials would likely discuss removing fire restrictions completely.

“I think that will very much be a topic that we will talk about,” Struble said.

All fire restrictions have already been lifted within the town of Oak Creek. Hayden Town Council members were going to consider lifting restrictions within their town limits during a meeting Thursday night.

The Steamboat Springs City Council will consider going to Stage 1 restrictions during its meeting Tuesday night.

The following remain prohibited under Stage 1 restrictions:

■ Fires outside developed, maintained campgrounds or picnic areas

■ Explosives

■ Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material

■ Welding or operating acetylene or other torch with open flame

■ Operating or using any internal or external combustion engine without a spark-arresting device properly installed, maintained and in working order

For more information, call the Routt County Sheriff's Office at 970-879-1090 or the Routt County Office of Emergency Management at 970-870-5551.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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