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Rainy week expected in Steamboat before summer takes hold next weekend

Rafters float down the Yampa River on Sunday through Steamboat Springs. River flows have nearly doubled in recent days as warm weather has caused more melting of snow at high altitudes. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

A storm moving in from the southwest Sunday afternoon will kick off what could be a week with rain chances nearly every day.

“Our rivers are very low for this time of year, so anything we get obviously helps,” said Erin Walter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “But this is, obviously, not going to take us out of the drought conditions we are in right now.”

Flows in the Yampa River have rebounded over the weekend, doubling from a recent low flow of around 400 cubic feet of water per second. On Sunday morning, the flow was around 850 cfs, still just 40% as much water as this time last year.



May is normally one of the wettest months for the Yampa Valley, but the area has seen a little over half the rain expected so far this month, according to the National Weather Service. Despite strong prospects for rain this week, it is unlikely to put much of a dent in current water concerns.

“Over the three days, it looks to stay under a half an inch, and it may be half of that,” said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist about the start of the workweek. “The warm temperatures may allow rivers to rise as we get more melting, but it doesn’t look like rainfall would be a significant contributor to a river rise.”



Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com, said an eddy that is near Nevada now will continue to move south, which will bring shower chances, mainly in the afternoon and evenings, each day to start the week.

Many of the showers moving through will likely be isolated as moisture levels are low, but that should increase for the start of the week. The best chances for rain that affects a larger area is Monday and Tuesday afternoon, Walter said.

Instructor Matt Jost, wearing yellow, from the Swiftwater Safety Institute, works with a student in a water safety course offered through Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs campus. The course is meant to teach people basic safety techniques for moving water and is taken by a variety of people, from professional guides to people who just want to know more about river safety. (Photo by Dyan Anderson)

For the Steamboat Springs area, there is an 80% chance of rain after noon Monday and a 70% chance on Tuesday. Percent chance of rain is based on statistical outcomes of modeling, so when there is an 80% chance of rain, it means there is an 80% chance that any point in the forecast area will see precipitation.

“We have a pretty active weather pattern, and with moisture just kind of lingering, too, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have some storms popping up each afternoon, especially over the higher terrain,” Walter said.

This eddy is being pushed south by another storm that is currently building in the Gulf of Alaska. That storm will continue moving east through the week and likely make landfall in Northern California on Thursday, Weissbluth said.

“We are really going to be between systems on Thursday,” Weissbluth said. “Ahead of the storm, it looks to be dry and warm, and that will be a lower chance or maybe even a dry day.”

Models still disagree on this storm, but Weissbluth said it looks like it will graze the area, rather than a direct hit. As it spins over the West Coast, lingering there through the weekend, the first wave will eject out and impact Steamboat on Friday. But Weissbluth said it seems the rest of the storm will likely miss the area.

Walter said there are some pretty strong winds that look to be coming in ahead of the storm, and Weissbluth said these could maintain through the weekend.

Long-range forecasts show after Friday, the weather generally looks to be warmer and drier for the foreseeable future, starting with a very summerlike weekend, Weissbluth said.

“If people don’t think summer is here yet, I think it is going to start this weekend and mark its arrival,” Weissbluth said. “It looks like summer is going to assert itself.”


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