Smoke likely to linger in the Yampa Valley to start the week |

Smoke likely to linger in the Yampa Valley to start the week

Smoke made for an interesting sunrise near the Bear River in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area on Saturday morning. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

Wildfires in states along the West Coast and in Canada are to blame for the dense smoke that arrived throughout the Yampa Valley over the weekend and will continue to start the week.

A front that moved through the area late last week shifted winds to come from the northwest rather than from the southwest, which had been bringing some monsoon moisture north.

“That had kept the wildfire smoke in British Columbia and California away from our area,” said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth about moisture from the south. “Then we shifted to be more from the northwest … and unfortunately, there’s a bunch of fires in British Columbia, so it looks like the smoke may continue.”

Behind that front, the smoke rolled in as it rotated from the West Coast, around a high-pressure system in the Great Basin and onto the Western Slope, which has caused a series of air-quality advisories. The smoke has extended to the eastern half of the state as well, and at one point Saturday, Denver had the worst air quality of any major city in the world, The Denver Post reported.

The air quality index in Steamboat Springs to start Sunday was above 170, which means people of all ages could experience health effects if exposed for 24 hours. It had dropped to about 125 by Sunday evening but is expected to increase again Monday.

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“It doesn’t look good for us on the smoke front,” Weissbluth said. “Obviously, the smoke effects everyone when it is this dense. I like to spend a lot of time outside, and I am thinking twice about it.”

Jeff Colton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said he anticipates as many as three more days of dense smoke in the area before it starts to lift as winds shift back to the southwest.

The Yampa Valley may be one of the last places on the Western Slope the smoke dissipates as wind makes its way north, Colton said.

Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website, also noted that smoke plume forecasts show higher concentrations of smoke are collecting in some of the mountain valleys of western Colorado.

Weissbluth said there will be a small front moving through the valley Monday, but it won’t clear out the smoke. After this front, Weissbluth said he anticipates the wind from the northwest to weaken, which could mean less dense smoke from Tuesday forward.

It will likely stay dry through much of the work week, with temperatures in the mid- to high-80s. Colton said the smoke is expected to keep temperatures a bit cooler than what they would be if skies were clear.

“We’ve been seeing our temperatures knocked down by roughly three to six degrees from our high temperatures,” Colton said. “If we had full sun, we would be warmer.”

Much of the week will remain dry until energy from the Pacific pushes the high-pressure ridge over the Great Basin further east, which will allow for the return of monsoonal moisture from the south.

“That’ll return our winds more to be from the southwest, which gets rid of the smoke and also introduces moisture back into our area,” Weissbluth said.

Colton said he anticipates this monsoonal push to start by Friday or Saturday, but he said it won’t have as much energy as the last push that brought rain to the Western Slope on and off for about two weeks.

“We could be looking at the return of showers to our area by the weekend or soon after,” Weissbluth said.

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