After a brief taste of spring-like weather brought sunshine, snow melt and even shades of green to the landscape in Summit County, residents again awoke to winter as a slushy late-season snowfall dropped in early this week.
Storms over the last few days delivered only short-lived dustings to the lower elevations, but up to 4 inches of wet snow on the peaks.
High Country locals, accustomed to winters that linger, were tolerant of the cold snap, particularly as forecasters promised warmer weather ahead.
“I’m OK with a day or two of snow here and there in May, as long as that’s all it is,” Breckenridge resident Mike Zobbe posted on his Facebook page Monday morning as flurries of wet snow soaked streets across the county. “That’s part of living in the High Country. It’s when it’s an entrenched pattern that it starts to work on me.”
But weather watchers say that’s unlikely to be the case this year. Both the long- and short-term forecasts from the National Weather Service indicate a warm-up is on the way.
Temperatures are expected to approach 50 degrees in Summit County today, although the slight chance of rain and snow remains in the forecast. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are on track to be warmer, with highs in the 60s and the possibility of afternoon thunderstorms.
“There’ll be some isolated stuff on Wednesday and Thursday, but generally a slow warming trend,” meteorologist Scot Entrekin said. “Then it looks even dryer probably by Friday and Saturday and into the weekend.”
Long-range forecasts, though less specific, show more of the same. Climatologists are struggling to pin down exactly what summer might hold for Colorado, sandwiched between a parched western region and a wet eastern one, but indications are the next few months will be warmer than average, according to forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center in Washington, D.C.
“They’re putting out pretty good odds for being above normal on temperatures,” NWS climate services program leader Mike Baker said. “They’re not really committal on precipitation. It could go any direction as we go into June and July.”
Regardless, the continuing wet weather may help delay the onset of the fire season through June, and in July Summit County often sees regular moisture from the monsoons, fire officials said, but they remain on alert. Precipitation through the spring and summer can allow grasses and smaller vegetation to grow taller, making excellent fuel for late-season fires
“They’re comparing this wildfire season to 2005, and if you remember 2005 was Ophir Mountain,” Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District deputy chief Jay Nelson told members of the Breckenridge Town Council at a recent meeting, referencing a wildfire that burned a few acres near Summit High School several years ago.
He said parts of southwestern Colorado are expected to see a more active fire season this year.
Summit County escaped the worst of a devastating wildfire season last year driven by extreme drought conditions across the state. Wildfires near Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and elsewhere scorched hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed hundreds of homes and claimed a handful of lives in 2012.