Small chance of clouds in Steamboat for total eclipse? | SteamboatToday.com

Small chance of clouds in Steamboat for total eclipse?

People stuck in Routt County for the total eclipse on Monday face a small possibility that clouds could interfere with one of the celestial events of a lifetime.

Steamboat Springs-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth forecast on Aug. 17 that Steamboat Springs will see warmer and drier weather for the weekend thanks to a ridge of high pressure to the west. However, the weather is a little iffy for Monday.

"Another surge of cooler air from the northern latitudes produces an additional wave that crosses the southern British Columbia coast on Friday," Weissbluth wrote in an e-mail. "This will temper the strength of the ridge as the bulk of the storm again travels north of our area."

However, Weissbluth, who publishes forecasts at Snowlarm.com, sees a possibility that a trough of low pressure off the California coast could drive upper level moisture to the south of Northwest Colorado.

"This could threaten the viewing of the 2017 solar eclipse on Monday, though right now it appears there is enough dry air lurking to our north to keep the clouds at bay for the Steamboat Springs event," Weissbluth said.

However, people with plans to drive north into Wyoming for the eclipse should be in the clear, he added.

Intellicast predicts no precipitation here through Aug. 26 with clear to partly cloudy skies dominating the 10-day forecast.

After an unusually dry month of July in the Yampa Valley, the first half of August reversed the trend with 1.01 inches of rainfall that was almost a 10th of an inch greater than the "normal" for the entire month of .92 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Kate Gmeiner, who maintains a rain gauge located between downtown Steamboat Springs and Mount Werner for the Colorado Community Rain, Hail and Snow Network, recorded just .58 inches of rain in July. That compares to the National Weather Service's stated "normal" of 1.52 inches.

The typical summer monsoons failed to make an appearance in July, and the heaviest one-day rainfall that month was the .16 inches Gmeiner recorded on July 22.

The rainiest period in August was recorded  on the eighth and ninth days of the month when .3 inches and .31 inches fell back to back.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

Funnel cloud sighting in Yampa Valley catches some by surprise

Dropping into Steamboat Springs down Rabbit Ears Pass and spotting a spinning cloud in the Yampa Valley was the last thing Becky Plummer expected.

Plummer was traveling back home to Craig after a visit to Oklahoma's tornado country when she spotted the cloud.

Plummer took photos of it at 10:44 a.m. Wednesday.

"My initial assessment is it is a funnel cloud," said Andrew Lyons, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

He noted that the difference between a funnel cloud and a tornado is that a tornado touches the ground.

"I'm not seeing any debris or a dust cloud underneath it," Lyons said.

While tornadoes are not common in the mountains, Lyons said funnel clouds are not necessarily unusual, but they are more common in the Uintah Basin in eastern Utah.

He said they typically get one tornado report each year in the region.

Lyons said the funnel cloud likely formed as a result of a nearby thunderstorm and spinning air in the atmosphere.

As air rose, the spinning increased.

"The more you stretch that tube of spinning air, the faster it's going to spin," Lyons said.

Steamboat meteorologist Mike Weissbluth agreed that it was likely a funnel cloud based on the spiral nature of the clouds.

"At first glance, I do not see a connection to the ground, so likely a funnel, and a beautiful one, at that," Weissbluth said.

He said video of the cloud would help identify rotation and any indication of it connecting to the ground.

"Since the condensation in the funnel stops well above the ground, I would be looking for any dust at the ground underneath the funnel that would indicate an invisible connection," Weissbluth said.

After looking at radar history for the time the photos were taken, Weissbluth said there were indications of upper-level forcing and likely a weak cool front moving over the area.

"The unstable atmospheric environment could have been induced to spin by the passing front, so a I would still guess a funnel," Weissbluth said.

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

Fire restrictions enacted for Routt National Forest

With well-below average rainfall this summer and an ongoing wildfire burning northeast of Hayden, stage one fire restrictions will go into effect beginning Wednesday for the entire Routt National Forest.

Routt County commissioners Monday will also decide whether to enact fire restrictions in the county.

During a conference call Tuesday morning between fire officials in Northwest Colorado, it was determined they were at the threshold for enacting stage one restrictions, which mean open burning and campfires are not allowed except in designated fire pits.

When deciding whether to implement restrictions, fire officials look at seven criteria that measure the susceptibility of a fire, such as how much moisture is in fuels.

Routt County Emergency Management Director David DeMorat said three of the seven criteria have been met.

"If we get a couple of rains between now and Monday, that could change this," DeMorat said.

In addition to the scientific criteria, commissioners will also have to weigh the social and economic impacts.

The dry weather led to the canceling of the July Fourth fireworks show in Steamboat Springs.

The area saw its first significant rainfall in weeks Monday with various weather observers reporting about .08 inches.

Monsoonal moisture has led to chances of rain through Thursday.

"We're seeing some moisture, and we're not seeing red flag warnings right now," Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart said.

Any moisture will help reduce the fire danger and aid firefighting efforts at the Mill Creek Fire near Hayden, which is at about 482 acres.

The fire is about 72 percent contained.

The state has been managing the fire because of its size. On Thursday, Routt County plans to take over management of the fire using local resources.

The cost of the human-caused fire will then be shared by Routt County and the Bureau of Land Management.

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

Without more moisture, Routt County could see fire restrictions later this month

S'mores season could end early this year for some campers in Northwest Colorado if it doesn't start raining soon.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart said Monday Routt County currently meets two of the seven criteria for fire restrictions.

Agencies usually start recommending some level of restrictions when four of the criteria are met.

"If I had to speculate, if we go two more weeks without moisture, we'll be at Stage 1 (fire restrictions) or close to it," Stewart said.

The current weather forecast doesn't show a big chance for a downpour in Steamboat anytime soon.

The National Weather Service is calling for just a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Friday. Otherwise, the forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the mid 80s through Monday.

Stage 1 fire restrictions would prohibit campfires outside of established campgrounds and designated recreation areas.

That means backpackers and campers in dispersed campsites, such as those on Buffalo Pass, could not start campfires.

While July usually marks the start of monsoonal moisture in the region, there is usually a transition period filled with some drier thunderstorms.

Stewart said it is this time that concerns firefighters because of the potential for lightning-caused wildfires and high winds.

Fire officials are holding conference calls at the start of each week to discuss the regional fire danger and decide whether restrictions are appropriate.

Stewart said there's a chance Rio Blanco and Moffat counties could enact fire restrictions as soon as next week based on the last assessment conducted on Monday.

He said Rio Blanco appeared to be the area that might be closest to enacting fire restrictions.

Routt County checks off two of the seven boxes that lead to fire restrictions.

One reason the area is nudging closer to them is because of the 270-acre Mill Creek Fire and the firefighting resources it has tied up.

Routt also meets a criteria for fire restrictions that measures how hot a fire might burn if it got into certain fuels.

Steamboat cancelled its annual Fourth of July fireworks show because of ongoing fire danger.

As thousands of people watched the holiday parade in downtown Steamboat on Tuesday morning, dozens of firefighters were working to try to contain the Mill Creek Fire burning in California Park near Hayden.

Smoke could still be seen behind Sleeping Giant on Tuesday, and it could be smelled in downtown Steamboat.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Wondering why we are seeing smoke in the Yampa Valley?

Smoke visible in Routt County Tuesday can be attributed to the Brian Head Fire in southwestern Utah, according to Kevin Thompson, Routt County National Forest fire management officer.

The Weather Channel is describing the Brian Head Fire as the largest active wildfire in the U.S. On Tuesday, authorities evacuated additional homes and cabins near the site of a wildfire, which has burned more than 77 square miles near the ski town of Brian Head.

In total, the fire, which was sparked by someone using a torch to burn weeds on June 17, has burned 13 homes and forced more than 1,500 people from their residences in southern Utah.

Thompson said his office was getting numerous calls about the smoke Tuesday afternoon. Area residents do not need to call the Forest Service Office about the smoke unless they can see the base of a fire, Thompson said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released this statement about the smoke.

“A significant area of thin density smoke attributed to a number of wildfires over the Western and Southwestern United States could be seen this morning stretching from Wyoming southward over a good portion of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Within this large area of thin density smoke was a region of moderately dense to thick smoke affecting southern and eastern Utah, southern Wyoming, western Colorado, and northern and central New Mexico.”

Footage of the fire from Fox News:

First day of summer will be a hot one in Steamboat area

The first day of summer is going to be a hot one in the Steamboat Springs area.

The summer solstice officially occurs at 10:24 p.m. Tuesday, and according the Steamboat meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs snowalarm.com, a ridge of high pressure will be moving into the area during the day.

Temperatures will soar to 87 degrees Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

On the Front Range, temperatures could reach triple digits. In Grand Junction, it could get up to 103 degrees.

The projected high temperature on Wednesday in Steamboat is 86 degrees followed by 83 degrees Thursday.

The late-week cooling off can be attributed to a storm in Canada that will move cool air to the south, Weissbluth said.

On Wednesday, there is a small chance of afternoon storms, but Weissbluth said the storms would bring more wind than rain.

There is disagreement in the computer models about when cooler air will move into the area over the weekend.

"After that, both models agree on a building ridge of high pressure over the Intermountain West by the second half of the weekend, which will bring a return to hot and dry conditions heading into the next work week," Weissbluth said.

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

Smoke visible from Northwest Colorado fires

With red flag warnings and recent wildfires in Northwest Colorado, the fire danger in Routt County stands at moderate.

With the correct winds, smoke from fires in the region could drift to Routt County.

The fires were started by lightning.

The Hunter Fire 20 miles of southwest of Meeker was reported Saturday and has burned 1,000 acres. It was 15 percent contained as of Monday afternoon.

The Dead Dog Fire reported Sunday 10 miles north of Rangely blew up to 2,000 acres Monday.

Officials closed U.S. Highway 40 between Dinosaur and Skull Creek in western Moffat County near the Utah border shortly after 3 p.m. Monday.

Beginning in May, firefighters in Routt County began responding to wildfires.

West Routt Fire Protection District firefighters responded to controlled burns that got out of control.

"We just urge everyone to be very careful with their open burning," firefighter Trevor Guire said.

People should contact the department if they plan on doing open burns.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters responded to a fire that started while a man was burning in a drum.

Open burning season has ended in the Steamboat area.

The National Interagency Fire Center has predicted below normal wildland fire potential for the Steamboat zone in June and July.

"Above normal precipitation and soil moisture is leading to a robust green-up across the West," the center wrote in a report.

Steamboat Deputy Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli said conditions can change quickly.

"As of right now, things are still good and looking OK," Cerasoli said.

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

Rain, then warm weather returns to Steamboat

Rain and colder temperatures are expected Tuesday before things start to heat up again quickly.

Steamboat Springs meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs snowalarm.com, wrote that a ridge of high pressure in the western United States had flattened allowing a weak cool front to move into northern Colorado on Monday.

"Some storms will also be possible on a cooler Tuesday afternoon as lingering moisture and instability from the front remain over our area," Weissbluth said.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction is calling for a high temperature of 76 degrees Tuesday.

The high pressure will begin to build again Wednesday bringing warmer temperatures and possibly an afternoon shower.

"Drier air and hot temperatures invade the Intermountain West for the rest of the work week with meager chances for precipitation," Weissbluth said.

Temperatures are expected to return to the low 80s by Thursday.

"While we are basking in mid-summer-like weather, a strong and powerful storm approaches the Pacific Northwest coast around Thursday," Weissbluth said. "However, seasonality dictates that the battle between the storm and the ridge will be dominated by the ridge, at least through the weekend. The main effect on our weather will be the appearance of breezy southwest winds ahead of the storm that will make only slow eastward progress through the weekend."

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

Yampa River has peaked in Steamboat, still time to ‘get your paddle on’

It's time for whitewater enthusiasts in Steamboat Springs to get their "paddle on."

Even though the river where it flows through downtown has already peaked for the season, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, is projecting the final push of the spring runoff will continue into the first few days of June.

The river, which was flowing at below 1,000 cfs the morning of May 24, had already jumped to 1,250 cfs by midday May 25 and is projected to go even higher June 1 to 3 when it will be flowing above 1,550 cfs just in time for the 37th annual Yampa River Festival.

However, hydrologists at the Forecast Center report the river won't climb as high as it did shortly after 2 a.m. May 14, when the flow peaked at 2,030 cfs for the season. That compares to a peak flow of 3,880 cfs on June 9, 2016.

Karl Wetlaufer, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver, suggested Thursday the below-average peak flow in the Yampa correlates with mountain snowpack that peaked atypically early.

"Across the entire Yampa, White and North Platte, snowpack peak was just about a month earlier than normal," Wetlaufer said. "There were slight resurgences, but it never reached that peak again."

Typically, Wetlaufer said, snowpack — a term that refers to the amount of water accumulated in the settled snow — peaks in this region on about April 10. This year, snowpack in the mountains peaked March 12.

To put the peak flow for 2017 in perspective, the Yampa's seasonal high in Steamboat has reached more than 3,000 cfs seven of the past 10 years. The highest flow in a decade was recorded June 7, 2011, when flows of 5,200 flooded hotel parking lots on the south side of town.

The lowest peak in the last 10 years was the 1,570 cfs recorded April 27, 2012.  A recent runoff season that more closely resembles 2017 was that of 2007, when the river peaked at 2,520 cfs.

The highest flow ever measured on the Yampa in Steamboat was the 5,550 cfs recorded in 1984.

The Yampa at Deerlodge Park in Moffat County, just above Dinosaur National Monument, was flowing in 4,350 cfs late this week with a boost from the Little Snake River, which drains the northern portion of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Areas, and was flowing at 1,350 cfs.

The Green River, just before it flows out of Utah and into Moffat County, was flowing at 7,100 cfs, as Flaming Gorge Dam operators counteracted high inflows generated by unusually heavy snow in Northwest Wyoming this winter.

The early May snowfall, along with the unseasonably cold temperatures experienced in the upper Yampa River Basin, are helping to feed the river's resurgence.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reports that the 8 inches of snow water equivalent — water stored in the remaining 18 inches of snow — on the West Summit of Rabbit Ears Pass May 25 was  just 58 percent of median, but that has grown from just 34 percent of median on May 17.

Those figures are even more significant above 10,000 feet on Buffalo Pass where the snow is still 90 inches deep, and the 44.8 inches of water there is 93 percent of median for the date.

Wetlaufer said the benefit of a late surge in snowmelt could be amplified if it also comes with rainfall on the valley floor. That would boost soil moisture, he said, which in turn would satisfy the demands of vegetation and allow more of the snowmelt to make its way into the streams and river.

<em>To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email <a href=”mailto:tross@SteamboatToday.com“>tross@SteamboatToday.com</a> or follow him on Twitter <a href=”https://twitter.com/ThomasSRoss1“>@ThomasSRoss1 </a></em>

SnowAlarm: Rain showers persistent in Steamboat Springs Thursday and Saturday, continuing next week

Forecast courtesy of snowalarm.com

While the bulk of a storm currently affecting the Steamboat Springs area is located in the southern Canadian prairies, just north of Montana and North Dakota, a cold front moving into the Great Basin on the backside of that storm will keep a somewhat stationary front over the northern borders of Utah and Colorado through Saturday. Showers will be the heaviest and longest-lasting with cooler temperatures Thursday and Saturday, as the stationary front moves southward, with Friday being a less active and warmer day as the once-cool front retreats northward back over our area as a warm front.

Some energy lingers over the southern Great Basin even as the storm passes east of our area by Saturday night, and that will contribute to the possibility of much lighter afternoon showers for Sunday and Memorial Day along with near-average temperatures.

Around Tuesday, a large diffuse area of low pressure crosses the northern Baja coast. Though the exact track of this low pressure is in question, models agree that subtropical moisture will be drawn northward across New Mexico and Colorado on the front-side of the storm, leading to heavier afternoon showers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

More uncertainty exists around midweek as the European ECMWF has uncharacteristically changed its solutions from earlier runs and now has the storm moving over Colorado later in the work week. The American GFS, on other hand, keeps the bulk of the storm south of us in the Chihuahuan Desert over northern Mexico and southern New Mexico. Continued afternoon showers are likely with this solution while a wetter period later Thursday or Friday is advertised by the ECMWF.