Vail Valley fire danger is high while streamflows are lagging
Most of Colorado is in some sort of drought; it's particularly bad in the southern part of the state
Expect a warm, mostly dry holiday weekend. And be extra-careful with fire.
Warm temperatures and dry conditions has fire danger ranging from “high” to “very high” in much of the valley. The exception is the higher-elevation areas of Eagle County.
Paul Cada, the Vail Fire Department’s wildland fire specialist, said while the area around Vail is drying quickly, he said fire danger in that area is about average for this time of year.
But, he added, “Good fire prevention is always a good step.” For the most part, residents and visitors have been doing a “pretty good job” of being safe with fire.
West of Vail, conditions are quite dry.
Tracy LeClair, the public education and information officer for the Avon-based Eagle River Fire Protection District, said most of the area is now under Stage 1 fire restrictions, especially heading into the holiday weekend.
“We’ve had a little moisture, but not enough to make a difference,” LeClair said.
Throughout much of Eagle County, fuels, particularly grasses, sage and pinyon and juniper trees, are quite dry.
LeClair said the “energy release” potential of those smaller fuels is now at or above the 90th percentile.
“Anything above the 90th percentile is cause for concern,” LeClair said.
Dry conditions through much of the spring and into the summer has affected local streamflows. Most local streams are running below average flows, significantly so in some cases. As of July 1, Gore Creek in Vail was running at only 55% of its normal flow.
The potential for good news lies in the annual monsoonal flow that brings wetter conditions to the area.
But that flow hasn’t developed so far this year.
Dan Cuevas, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said that information for the next 10 days doesn’t show the monsoon pattern developing. The 90-day outlook isn’t precise, but doesn’t show much relief
The pattern over the U.S. at the moment is a persistent low pressure system over the Pacific Northwest, with a high pressure system established over the Great Plains. Those two systems have combined to create a dry and warm flow over the Colorado Rockies.
Weather patterns have combined to put all but the far-northern part of Colorado into some form of drought. Conditions are worst in the southern part of the state. Eagle County is currently in either “abnormally dry” or “moderate drought” conditions.
Until conditions change, the county will probably remain in some form of fire restriction, LeClair said.
“We need that precipitation,” LeClair said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.