Quick cold spell will bring below-freezing temperatures

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— Residents hoping for a hearty tomato crop this summer might want to cover their plants Wednesday night.

Julie Malingowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said winds will pick up again Wednesday along with rain before a cold front moves through the region between 6 and 10 p.m. The skies will then clear out, giving way to overnight low temperatures that are forecast to be below freezing for parts of the Yampa Valley.

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“That will be a quick cold spell,” Malingowski said.

The forecast low for Steamboat Springs on Wednesday night is 30 degrees. The temperature in Oak Creek is expected to dip down to 31 degrees. To the west, it is expected to be 32 degrees in Hayden and 30 degrees in Craig.

As Routt County Extension Agent Todd Hagen­buch pointed out, temperatures can vary greatly in the valley.

“Routt County has such localized temperatures,” Hagen­buch said. “You can be a block away or 1 mile away and have different weather.”

Hagen­buch said a couple of residents have come into the extension office recently with damaged tree branches that had black marks. The culprit was frost.

Hagen­buch said a lot of local gardeners still are covering their plants on cool nights, and they will want to make sure to do it again Wednesday night. He said most trees are already far enough along and should not be affected by below-freezing temperatures, but some plants are more susceptible.

Hagen­buch said lettuce, kale and spinach should be fine if it gets down to 28 degrees, but zucchini and tomatoes are more vulnerable. If it gets much colder than 28 degrees, ranchers might not be able to harvest alfalfa as soon as they want.

“Things are growing quite well right now,” Hagen­buch said.

It is not unusual for the area to see such cool temperatures in June. On average, Steamboat at 6,770 feet has only 46 frost-free days each year, according to the Western Region Climate Center. By comparison, Leadville at 10,177 feet has 26 frost-free days on average, and the heat seekers in Grand Junction see 183 days.

According to 30 years' worth of data, Steamboat has a 50 percent chance of seeing freezing temperatures up until June 26 and a 50 percent chance of 28-degree temperatures through June 2.

The growing season is significantly longer in Hayden, which has a 50 percent chance of seeing freezing temperatures up until June 3 and a 50 percent chance of 28-degree temperatures through May 16.

After a high of 62 degrees Wednesday, the temperature in Steamboat is expected to rebound into the high 70s starting Friday as a high-pressure system settles in through at least early next week.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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