Rain continues in Summit County, moisture still falls far short of average
Ryan Summerlin July 22, 2012
Though seasonal afternoon thunderstorms have pounded Summit County almost daily this month, precipitation totals are still falling far short of average and forecasters say it’s not enough to end the drought.
Twenty-two days into July, Breckenridge has accumulated less than an inch of rain, compared with the more than 7 inches that hit the High Country by the end of July 2011, and the 2.2 inches called for this month in the 30-year average.
“It’s just a dryer pattern,” National Weather Service meteorologist Kari Bowen said. “We’re not seeing as many significant storms as we were last year. … Every little bit helps, but in terms of getting us out of a drought, it’s going to take a lot more than what we’ve seen.”
The long-awaited rain isn’t wasted, however.
Daily showers have soaked the smaller shrubs and grasses, helping to reduce Summit County’s fire danger rating from “extreme” at the end of June to “moderate” at the end of last week.
Fire danger across Colorado peaked at the end of June, when wildfires tore across the Front Range and other parts of the state, destroying hundreds of homes and causing millions of dollars in damage.
But consistent moisture over the last three weeks has induced local municipalities, including Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Summit County to repeal their fire bans in response.
“The recent rains have certainly helped us out,” undersheriff Derek Woodman said in a recent statement from the county. “However, we urge everyone to continue to use caution with open flames, as things could dry out again very quickly.”
The White River National Forest remains under a Stage 1 fire ban.
The rain is expected to continue this week, with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms today and tonight. A new weather system is on track to move in Tuesday, increasing the chance of thunderstorms to 50 percent, according to weather service forecasts.
The system could drop as much as a half-inch of rain or more on parts of Summit County by the end of the day Wednesday.
But the moisture isn’t expected to last long.
August is traditionally a dryer month than July, and this year it is tracking to see less precipitation than normal, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.
“It’s going to continue to be a dryer year for the rest of the season,” Bowen said.
The current rain patterns are attributed to monsoonal flows that move up into Colorado from the south. But, unlike snow, rain showers benefit only small, isolated areas where the storms develop and are generally short-lived.
This year’s drought is the result of record-low snowfall this winter.
Dry conditions continued into the spring and early summer. May produced .94 inches of rain, compared to an average 1.79 inches, and Summit County saw only half an inch of precipitation in June, compared with the normal 1.36 inches for the month.