Strong rain chances Wednesday as cold front with polar air cools down Yampa Valley
After a dry, smoky week, the Yampa Valley is in for one of its more significant rain chances of the summer, with some models showing the area could see as much as an inch of rain by the end of the week.
A ridge of high pressure has been sitting over the West for the last week, which has largely prevented any moisture. Still, a few storms are likely to move around this ridge early in the week, bringing chances for rain Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday that ridge moves farther east, allowing for moisture to come up from the south and a cold front currently over the Bering Sea to move into the area from the northwest.
“This storm has sucked in some cold air from the north pole,” said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com. “This is what happens this time of year, the jet stream starts getting more active, the poles start to cool … and the winter season starts.”
Weissbluth said he expects the best rain chance to start Wednesday afternoon, with the cold front actually arriving that night.
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As this front moves in, it will carry that polar air with it, making for a cooler end of the week. The high from the National Weather Service for Thursday is currently 73 degrees, which is about 13 degrees cooler than the average temperature in July. Weissbluth said he isn’t sure it would even reach 70.
“It will probably start warm on Wednesday, then showers later in the day, then an unsettled Thursday at least, and it may linger into Friday,” Weissbluth said.
Brianna Bealo, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said much of the moisture for this storm is coming up from the south, much like monsoonal moisture did when the area saw rain a few weeks ago.
“It is nowhere near as strong or as long lasting as the one we had last month,” Bealo said. “But we are getting some monsoonal moisture pushing up into the area.”
Thunderstorms will generally be in the afternoon, Bealo said, but coverage should be pretty widespread with much of the area seeing decent rain. Weissbluth said he thought the rain late in the week would be relatively sustained, with showers coming more often and affecting a larger area.
“One of the models here has over an inch (of rain) between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning,” Weissbluth said.
The weather service uses the term beneficial rain to describe a weather event that will bring at least a quarter-inch of precipitation without leading to any flash flooding.
“I think there is a good chance we’ll see some beneficial rainfall out of this,” Weissbluth said. “The burn scars of course are going to be problematic.”
Bealo also noted that, saying that depending on where they develop, these storms could lead to flash flooding and debris flows.
Heavy rain is particularly difficult to manage over burn scars because not only is there limited surviving vegetation to keep the soil in place, the soil itself often does not absorb the water well.
Intense heat from fires can actually make the top layer of soil repel water, as a waxy residue is left after vegetation burns, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This can happen more frequently when there is a thick layer of vegetation on the forest floor when it burns and when the soil itself has a coarse texture.
“Those hydrophobic soils are very nasty for the rainfall we get in the summer,” Weissbluth said. “It changes the dirt structure and surrounds it with this hardened sphere that doesn’t allow it to absorb water.”
As cold air continues to move in with the storm, Weissbluth said he expects to see a dusting of snow at elevations above 11,500 feet. This wouldn’t mean anything for Mount Werner, but several taller mountains in the Mount Zirkel or the Flat Tops wilderness areas could see some snow, Weissbluth said.
There are chances of rain in the afternoon on Friday and Saturday, but the weather pattern will dry out and warm back up again by the start of next week.
“It looks like drying out for the weekend and at least part of the following work week,” Weissbluth said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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