Pray the wind don’t howl |

Pray the wind don’t howl

Scott Miller

It sounded like a wounded animal was dying in the lunchroom. Actually, the weird yowl was just the wind whistling through the windows.

The numbers say we’re not yet done with the drought that peaked in 2002 but has actually dogged us for the past several years. Snowpack numbers have remained stubbornly below average, with only the March mega-storm last year putting a bump in the meager readings.

Worse, though, will be if we again endure a season of cursed, snow-sucking wind.

In 2002 my family returned from a spring vacation on roughly April 1. That’s about the day the wind started in earnest. The wind blew all that spring and into June or July, warm, hard gales that quickly sucked away what little snow there was, keeping water out of the ground and drying out the brush for the state’s epic wildfires that summer.

On the valley floor, the contractor building the Capitol Theater in Eagle told me that year the wind prevented crucial work for at least a month, which was a big factor in its delayed opening.

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Despite the fact the folks at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office said there wasn’t anything especially freakish about the wind that spring, more than one valley lifer told me in 2002 they’d never experienced wind like that in Eagle County.

It was the kind of wind Front Range farmers fight every spring, the kind of wind that drives sand which cuts the shoots of new plants like a scythe, the kind of wind best described in Front Range farmer language unfit for a family newspaper.

The wind was a key element in the perfect storm of the drought that year. We’ve had our gusty days in this too-early spring, but I still hold out hope maybe the wind will stay away, allowing this season’s precious snowpack to at least trickle into the ground.

That may be a vain hope. My house in Gypsum gets the wind before just about anyone else in the valley, and the breezes have been picking up. The same day we got the dying-animal noise at the office here in Eagle-Vail, the wind howled hard enough to knock a couple of water glasses to the ground at home, sending glass across the stone patio.

This does not bode well for summer, friends. Watering restrictions – some form of which should be permanent and statewide, by the way – are likely to be imposed sooner than later, and restaurants will probably put up those “water by request only” signs soon.

There is some good news, though.

In 2002, the state’s reservoirs had already been pulled down by a dry 2001, which is why dust storms from what used to be the bottom of Dillon Reservoir often obscured visibility on Interstate 70 between Silverthorne and Frisco. This year, the reservoir remains mostly full, and other area reservoirs were all at or near their average levels as of the end of February.

So we probably won’t have to bathe with moistened towelettes come August. But the wind could sure do us a favor by going somewhere else this year.

Staff Writer Scott Miller can be reached at 949-0555 or

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