Heat is on in Four Corners

Weekend thunderstorms could bring brief relief

Low 90s, high 80s?

It’s pretty much the same when it gets that hot, which is what La Plata County is looking at for a few days.

A high-pressure system that is building should make Friday and Saturday quite warm and dry in the Four Corners, a bulletin from the National Weather Service in Grand Junction said Wednesday. Isolated thunderstorms late Saturday and Sunday should cool temperatures a tad.

But with high temperatures and low humidity, a wildfire is just a lightning strike away – or maybe a careless move by a camper.

“Obviously, with high temperature and low humidity, we get anxious about wildfires,” Butch Knowlton, director of emergency preparedness for La Plata County, said Wednesday. “This is a prime time for wildfires, so we have to be exceptionally careful because fires grow rapidly.”

A Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch Center chart shows fire danger is “very high” in La Plata and Archuleta counties, but “extreme” a little farther west in Montezuma County and Mesa Verde National Park.

Fire restrictions put into place last week for unincorporated areas of La Plata County, all Bureau of Land Management Lands in Southwest Colorado and all U.S. Forest Service lands below 8,500 feet remain in effect.

Relief – to a degree – could arrive by late Saturday.

“A little moisture is working its way into the area, so we should see some thunderstorms,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Colton. “We should see isolated thunderstorms Saturday, which will dissipate about sunset and then return Sunday.”

The National Weather Service is predicting a high temperature of 92 for today and 91 for Friday in Durango. Saturday and Sunday should be in the high 80s. Colton said high temperatures Monday through Wednesday for Durango should range from 85 to 90.

“The first chance for an increase in thunderstorms will come Tuesday, when a trough moves through the area from the north,” the weather service bulletin said.

But Tim Mathewson, a fire meteorologist with the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, said it will take more than a little moisture to lower the danger.

At the same time that thunderstorms cool the atmosphere, they bring the possibility of fire, he said. They produce little rain but a chance for more “ignition” in the form of lightning.

“It takes more than one push of moisture to do any good,” Mathewson said. “With the drought, it will take two to three weeks of moisture to have a real effect.”

Mathewson said by the end of the month or early in July, the seasonal monsoons could make the weather more comfortable.

daler@durangoherald.com