Drought conditions worsen in Routt County
May precipitation well below average
May 31, 2012
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from its original version. The fire restrictions in Routt County also apply to state lands within the county’s boundaries.
A weekly report updated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday indicates extreme drought conditions continue to expand in Northwest Colorado.
"And they're expected to get worse," said Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. "We have just been spiraling into more and more severe drought, and that has not changed this week."
The Drought Monitor shows that nearly all of Northwest Colorado is experiencing at least a severe drought, and much of the area is seeing extreme drought conditions. Ramey said the Drought Monitor is based mostly on past precipitation as well as soil moisture levels.
"We haven't seen it quite like this since the 2002 season, which was a big wildfire season," Ramey said.
According to Steamboat Springs weather observer Art Judson, 0.68 inches of precipitation fell in May compared to an average of 2.08 inches.
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Dry conditions have prompted Routt County officials to enact fire restrictions, which are in effect for unincorporated parts of Routt County. Campfires still are allowed at designated campgrounds and recreational sites, but recreational fires at homes within the restricted area are not allowed.
Restrictions have not yet been imposed by federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management in Routt County.
The long-term forecasts do not bode well for a reprieve from drought conditions. The federal Climate Prediction Center states there is an increased probability for below-normal precipitation for all of Colorado during the month of June. There also is an increased probability for below-normal precipitation.
"The best forecast is warm and dry conditions," Ramey said.
He said the storm track remains well to the north of Colorado, and it's difficult to predict whether summer monsoonal moisture will make its way from the south to the Steamboat area.
In the short-term, the next chance of precipitation is Saturday, when a disturbance passes through the Steamboat area. Temperatures will remain high in the atmosphere, which inhibits the growth of storms.
"We don't have the instability to work with, which is an important ingredient with thunderstorms," Ramey said.
The National Weather Service forecasts sunny skies and daytime highs in the mid-80s Saturday through Tuesday. Today's high is forecast at 76 degrees.