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Weather puts a damper on summer in foothills

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And firefighters are thankful

By Daniel Laverty

Conifer and Evergreen have been feeling a bit “under the weather” this summer, but this year that’s been a good thing.

“The rain has reduced the number of wildfire-related calls,” said Evergreen Fire Chief Mike Weege. “Dry lightning is what we fear the most, but the moisture content has been high.”

The mountain area was blasted with rain in July and August. Kari Bowen, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Boulder office, said the early-summer forecast was ideal for rainfall in the mountains.

“(In May), weather patterns looked promising for good rain in the summer,” Bowen said. “It’s always hard to tell because so many things have to happen, but it’s a big deal to get a lot of moisture.”

July storms brought 3.25 inches of rain to Evergreen, and, as of Aug. 29, 3.75 inches in August.

Evergreen’s July average is 2.24 inches of rainfall and 2.47 inches in August. The National Weather Service does not track rainfall in Conifer.

“These storms will linger for some time but start to taper off,” Bowen said last week. “There’s a high-pressure system that’s now moved over us, and that will block a lot of moisture. We’re going to start seeing higher temperatures and will begin to dry out until winter.”

The additional moisture also has brought some problems to the mountain area. On Aug. 12, heavy rains caused water damage and electrical issues at several businesses in downtown Evergreen.

“With a couple of hot weeks, (vegetation) could dry out real quickly,” Weege said. “There’s a downside to everything. The high moisture has made everything tall and green. Once it dries out, there’s a lot of (fuel) to burn.”

Weege is hoping for early snow this winter.

“Hopefully we get as much snow as we’ve gotten rain,” he said.

Indian Hills Fire Chief Emery Carson has also noticed a drop in wildfire-related calls this summer.

“(The rain has) given us a nice break,” Carson said. “After the Fourth of July, we started getting the rain. Our smoke-check calls now just turn out to be low-hanging clouds.”

Carson shares Weege’s concerns that new vegetation could fuel large wildfires in the future.

“Or even if we have a dry winter, bad things could happen,” Carson said. “It’s nice having the rain now, but this could create bigger fires next year because of it.”

Bowen said that current forecasts are predicting an average winter for the mountain area.

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.