Weather pattern could bring rain and more smoke to Steamboat area this week | SteamboatToday.com
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Weather pattern could bring rain and more smoke to Steamboat area this week

While the smoky skies around Steamboat Springs have made for some dramatic sunsets, the smoke from wildfires has created concerns about air quality across the Yampa Valley.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs area is expected to receive some much needed moisture through the week, but the southwest flow will also bring with it more smoke from wildfires burning in Colorado and the West.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to be getting a lot of precipitation out of it, but we could have some afternoon and overnight periods of some light rain,” said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs the snowalarm.com weather blog.

Weissbluth said he is expecting the flow and moisture to increase as the week progresses; however, a cold front, which is expected to arrive sometime Sunday and into Monday, will likely sweep that moisture to the east.

“A ridge of high pressure currently centered over the Four Corners will be suppressed to the south and nudged eastward over the upcoming week by a series of storms moving through the Gulf of Alaska and eventually the northern U.S.,” Weissbluth explained. “While the remnants of former-hurricane Genevieve look to skirt north of our area, the southwesterly flow on the western side of the ridge of high pressure will bring monsoonal moisture from the Mexican Plateau over our area.”

It also will transport smoke from the Pine Gulch fire near Grand Junction and the Grizzly Creek fire near Glenwood Springs back to the region, Weisbluth added. Some of that smoke could be seen Monday as the haze around Steamboat seemed to increase with a smell of smoke in the air.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Scott Cowman said he has been relying on his own sight distance observations to monitor local air quality as well as using data from the Colorado Department Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division and PurpleAir monitors, including two in Steamboat and another in South Routt to monitor local air quality. Those monitors can be accessed through the PurpleAir website.

Keep up with the conditions

• Find the latest forecast and recent weather stories here.
• View Steamboat webcams here.
• Find information from the National Weather Service, including storm warnings and advisories at wrh.noaa.gov
• The Colorado Department of Transportation provides road conditions, closures and traffic cameras at cotrip.org.
• For travel information by phone, call 511 (in Colorado) or dial 303-639-1111.
• Find information about avalanche danger and conditions from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
• For flight information, visit flightview.com/traveltools.

“While they (the monitors) are not accurate to the point where you’re doing studies or anything like that with them, they are a good tool for getting information out to the public, because you can look the information up wherever you have internet on your phone or your computer,” Cowman said.

The monitors provide a number that represents the air quality at any given time. On Monday, the number was between 100 and 150. Cowan said he watches those numbers to make sure they stay below dangerous levels, and if they rise above those guidelines, he would then issue a warning to the public.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s not terrible,” Cowan said about Monday’s numbers. “I would say 200 is where I start to get a little concerned.”

He also said it’s important for him to rely on several different sources of information when assessing air quality.

“You don’t want to rely on only one source,” Cowman explained. “You want to make sure that you’re looking at all these other pieces of information and then working with emergency management and communications to put messages out.”

Weissbluth said more rain is in the forecast.

“Our best chance for significant rain will likely wait until later next weekend as one of the Gulf of Alaska storm mixes with some cold air from the North Pole, bringing our first cool front through our area around the beginning of the following work week,” Weissbluth said.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.


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