Little rain goes a long way for Steamboat |

Little rain goes a long way for Steamboat

Brent Boyer

— Most years, the dark clouds that pushed over Steamboat Springs late Thursday afternoon would pose a menacing sight. But this isn't most years, so those clouds and the rain they potentially held were a welcome sign for most residents here.

By Thursday evening those clouds had produced more than enough rain to push July's precipitation total beyond what all of June produced, not that it took much.

The 0.14 inches of rain that had fallen in Steamboat through Wednesday evening was enough to tie June's paltry mark, which was a far cry from the month's historic average of 1.54 inches of precipitation. July historically produces 1.51 inches of rain in the city, making it the driest month of the year in Steamboat. Thursday's storm brought another 0.07 inches, meaning July’s month-to-date total is now at 0.21 inches.

The recent rain has combined with additional water releases from Stagecoach Reservoir to boost streamflows in the Yampa River to levels not seen since mid-June. The river was flowing at 81 cubic feet per second under the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat on Thursday evening, but it had jumped to 95 cfs by Friday afternoon. That's almost double the 42 cfs that flowed through Steamboat on June 27.

The best news might be that the three rainstorms in July's first five days signal the shift to Colorado's summer monsoon season.

Ellen Heffernan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Grand Junction forecast office, expects the chance for afternoon rain in Routt County to continue through the weekend before giving way to drier weather early next week.

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Regardless, Heffernan said the seasonal monsoon pattern has begun. Colorado's monsoonal weather pattern is characterized by southerly flow that pushes subtropical moisture from Mexico north to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Utah. However, monsoon season doesn't guarantee significant precipitation for any specific location. The slow-moving storms often produce spotty rainfall, which explains why Steamboat got only 0.03 inches of rain on the Fourth of July while a weather station five miles south of Yampa picked up 0.46 inches.

"We are seeing better moisture than we have for a while," Heffernan said Thursday. "We're crossing our fingers everywhere. Everyone wants it."

Despite the recent, and limited, precipitation, officials warn that fire danger remains extremely high and Stage 2 fire restrictions still are in place. Those restrictions ban all open fires and flames, including campfires and the use of charcoal grills. Smoking outside also is prohibited. The restrictions are in place for all lands in Routt County and Steamboat Springs, including national forest land, state parks and private property.

Mandatory water restrictions also are in place for all homes and businesses in Steamboat and the immediate surrounding areas. Among other things, those restrictions limit lawn watering to certain times of the day and days of the week based on street address. Odd-numbered addresses can water Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays; even-numbered addresses can water Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Watering is prohibited for everyone Wednesdays. On days when it's permitted, watering can be done before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.

Average precipitation, by month

City of Steamboat Springs, 1893 to 2012

January: 2.47 inches

February: 2.23 inches

March: 2.04 inches

April: 2.23 inches

May: 2.09 inches

June: 1.54 inches

July: 1.51 inches

August: 1.6 inches

September: 1.8 inches

October: 1.93 inches

November: 1.93 inches

December: 2.38 inches

Source: Western Region Climate Center,

Stage 2 fire restrictions

Stage 2 fire restrictions are in effect for all lands, public and private, throughout Routt County.

What’s prohibited under Stage 2 restrictions:

■ Open flames, including campfires, stove fires and use of charcoal grills. The use of propane grills is allowed.

■ Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building.

■ Possessing or using fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices, including tracer ammunition.

■ Using explosives, including targets that could explode.

■ Using any internal or external combustion engines (such as chain saws) without a properly working spark arrester.

■ Possessing or using a vehicle off road except when parking in areas cleared of vegetation.

■ Welding or operating an acetylene or torch with an open flame.

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