Wild weekend weather in Steamboat to give way to cooler temps — and a chance for snow | SteamboatToday.com

Wild weekend weather in Steamboat to give way to cooler temps — and a chance for snow

Lightning strikes on a mountain behind Saddle Mountain Ranch as a strong thunderstorm blew through the Yampa Valley on Sunday evening.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Forecasters say it’s unlikely, yet possible, that weather conditions later this week could bring a dusting of snow to some of the higher peaks in the Steamboat Springs area.

“This is going to be our first fall front,” said Mike Weissbluth of snowalarm.com, a local forecasting website. “What we just had could qualify as that, but this one has some colder air associated with it and will be drier.”

Weissbluth said showers could start late Tuesday with the front passing through the area Wednesday. The best chance of precipitation would come later in the day Wednesday through midnight.

“It will be cold enough for snow probably even at the top of Mount Werner, but the problem is that we lose our moisture right when we get the coldest temperatures,” he said. “It’s going to be close.”

Chris Cuoco, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said that residents living in the area should be prepared for much cooler temperatures starting Tuesday night and lasting until Saturday. The high on Wednesday is expected to be 61 degrees, he said, with lows dropping to 38 degrees on Thursday and to 34 degrees on Friday. Things will start to warm up slowly on Saturday, and the weekend should be seasonable.

Cuoco agreed that there could be a chance for snow on the local peaks.

“There is a chance that on Thursday morning, as the storm is exiting the area, and the colder air is moving in, there will be a little bit of snow that will fall and not stick around Steamboat, but I’m thinking it will be mostly in the mountains,” Cuoco said.

The cooldown follows a wild Sunday that brought high winds and heavy rain, prompting the National Weather Service to issue several advisories for Northwest Colorado including Hayden, Steamboat and South Routt.

“Through the afternoon, much of Northwest Colorado was affected,” Cuoco explained. “We had several reports of strong winds including one in Rifle and another in Silt; we had a little small hail, and the strongest wind gust was 75 mph at the Rifle airport at 5:47 p.m.”

There was a 47 mph gust reported in Meeker, a 58 mph gust recorded on Douglas Pass and a 55 mph gust reported in Craig as the storms moved through the area. The strongest gust, at 69 mph, was recorded by an automated weather station 18 miles southeast of Massadona in Moffat County.

Weissbluth said local observers reported a maximum wind gust of 23 mph at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and a max gust of 40 mph at 7:15 p.m. when the second storm line moved through. The day’s high temperature came at noon, then a dramatic drop when the first storm came through at 2:30 p.m. and even further at around 7 p.m.

Rain totals ranged from 0.6 to 0.8 inches across the Steamboat Springs area. However, one spot near Steamboat Resort reported 1.3 inches of rain during the storms. The longterm average rainfall in Steamboat for the month of September is 1.83 inches. However, it has been as high as 8.15 inches, in 1961, and as low as 0.07 inches in 1953.

“It looks like the mountain got a little more than town,” Weissbluth said. “For us to get close to an inch out of one day is big, absolutely. It was definitely a significant weather event.”

Weissbluth said he was playing disc golf as the first wave of the storm rolled through the area. He watched the second squall come through later from his deck.

“That was quite an impressive show as well,” he said. “We got a good amount of heavy rain out of that one.”

Winds blew a tree into a power line on Logan Avenue in Steamboat resulting in some customers losing power until crews could address the problem. Wind was also blamed for the loss of a feeder line that left 1,000 people in Hayden without power.

Lightning from the storms sparked a small fire in a group of cottonwood trees near the gravel pits on Routt County Road 179 south of Milner. Firefighters were concerned that the high winds could spread the fire towards nearby structures, but the wind calmed, and the fire was put out.

About 30 firefighters from Oak Creek and Yampa were joined by several members of a U.S. Forest Service hand crew to battle a brush fire that was believed to be started by lightning on private land near Thorpe Mountain northwest of Oak Creek Sunday.   

Oak Creek Fire Chief Chuck Wisecup requested help as he could see large flames and feared the high winds would spread the fire quickly.

“(Wisecup) was able to see some fairly large flames and a lot of smoke … we got some more moisture and the winds died down, so that helped keep that from spreading,” said Routt County Emergency Director David “Mo” DeMorat. “They were able to knock that down, and by evening, all the fires were contained if not put out.”

DeMorat said crews from Oak Creek planned to visit the Thorpe Mountain Fire on Monday, but felt that the heavy rain from the second storm would increase the chances that the fire had been extinguished. DeMorat and fire crews would be ready to respond to any other reports of fires that could have been caused by the large amount of lightning in the storms, but he expected that the heavy rain would reduce the chances.

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

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